Southampton City primary care trust is renegotiating arrangements with its local Care UK treatment centre contract in a bid to stop the PCT losing up to £3.6m a year.

The treatment centre opened in October 2008 but its activity is at only 75 per cent of the value the PCT is contractually obliged to pay.

PCT chief executive Bob Deans told HSJ the shortfall between the number of patients treated and the guaranteed payments was around £3.6m a year. The PCT is negotiating with Care UK and Southampton University Hospitals trust to “reduce the risk to the PCT”.

Under the proposed changes, the hospital trust will transfer £3.6m of elective and day case patients to the treatment centre for 2009-10.

The trust would then use the spare capacity this would provide to increase its specialist services, particularly for complex cardiology patients who are frequently treated at major acute hospitals in London.

Although the PCT will still be liable to make the minimum payments if the hospital fails to transfer enough patients to the treatment centre, Mr Deans said the plan offered the best chance to reduce the risk of paying even when no patients were treated.

The Southampton treatment centre is part of the much-reduced phase two of the controversial independent sector treatment centre programme.

Last year, HSJ revealed that concerns about the area’s ability to provide enough patients for the scheme led to it being scaled down, only to be scaled up again after a reduced scheme was deemed to fall outside Treasury value for money rules on achieving economies of scale.

Under the original arrangement, the hospital trust agreed to transfer 7,500 patients to the centre a year. At the time, a senior source in the region warned there was “no evidence” of demand for the extra capacity that would be made available if the centre scaled up to 14,900 operations a year.

Last year HSJ revealed concerns about the area’s ability to provide enough patients for the scheme led to it being scaled down, only to be scaled up again after a reduced scheme was deemed to fall outside Treasury rules on achieving economies of scale.