A prominent private provider of elective surgery to the NHS has seen a ‘slower’ than expected growth in demand for its services, despite the government’s £250m drive to clear waiting lists.

In her first interview since joining Care UK as its managing director for secondary care, Philippa Slinger indicated she had anticipated picking up more additional work over the summer, when the funding was expected to be spent.

While Care UK had seen an increase in the number of trusts looking for help to clear waiting lists, demand had been “slower than I imagined it would”, she said.

Ms Slinger added that Care UK was even prepared to help NHS hospitals run their own elective surgical services, instead of treating patients in its network of treatment centres.

Philippa Slinger

The private firm can help run ‘cold’ elective sites, Philippa Singer said

“If you think about what I do on [Care UK’s independent sector treatment centres], we run ‘cold’ elective sites,” she said.

“There are many trusts that have cold elective sites or have ringfenced cold elective services, and I think we do have a role to play working with NHS organisations in helping run those cold elective services well and productively to achieve great outcomes for patients.”

The firm’s offer to help run NHS hospitals’ inhouse surgery services comes after its bid to run George Eliot Hospital Trust as a franchise was derailed in March when the trust abandoned its procurement process.

Care UK hopes now to attract new business by offering discounts to hard pressed trusts that committed to longer term arrangements, Ms Slinger said.

“If [we] have a certainty of work and income, both in volumes and the tenure of that arrangement, one’s generally able to arrange to have a more beneficial pricing system.

“If I am able to know that I have a 2-5 year relationship with an organisation, that means that a certain amount of work is going to come through over that period of time.

“Then I can look at a pricing model that actually enables me to potentially offer some discounts on the volume.

“[This would] enable the trusts to get better value out of the tariff because I can potentially do it cheaper than they can do it for themselves.”

The former chief executive of Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals Foundation Trust said she hoped her former hospital’s acquisition by neighbouring Frimley Park Foundation Trust last month would help to address its historic problems.

“I am so delighted that it has actually happened now,” she added.

“I really passionately believe that it is the best thing for the patients of East Berkshire.

“It puts Heatherwood and Wexham Park onto a firm setting and it gives it a future.”