A privately operated hospital treatment centre is to be brought back under full NHS control, Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Nicola Sturgeon told the SNP conference the service provided at a regional treatment centre at Stracathro Hospital in Angus would be delivered by the NHS from next year.

She said: “Stracathro is coming home to the NHS.”

The regional treatment centre at the rural hospital was set up in 2006 as an NHS and private sector joint venture.

It provides non-emergency operations to patients from three health board areas - Tayside, Grampian and Fife - at an annual cost of £5m.

Ms Sturgeon said this funding would continue, but the work would be delivered in and by the NHS from January.

“Currently, the private sector provides the service at Stracathro but the NHS pays for it - which means, of course, that the NHS pays not just for the service provided but for the profit margin as well,” she said.

“This is the only private contract of its kind in Scotland and it comes to an end on 3 January next year.”

The move further widens the gap in public service provision between Scotland and England, with ministers south of the border opting to use the independent sector in health. Under the SNP, the private sector has already been barred from providing GP services, hospital cleaning and catering. 

The changes have been criticised by the Confederation of British Industry. CBI Scotland assistant director David Lonsdale said: “Instead of banning commercial providers, ministers ought to be doing everything they can to encourage them, particularly in light of the need to deliver value for money services given the looming squeeze on the public finances.”