Published: 03/10/2002 Volume II2, No.5825 Page 8

Plymouth Hospitals trust is sending heart patients who have waited more than six months for surgery to a private hospital in London under the patient choice scheme.Plymouth's Derriford Hospital said that due to a lack of private units capable of carrying out coronary artery bypass grafts in the South West, the patients are offered the option of the three-hour trip to Cromwell Hospital in west London.The trust has received£2.74m from the£100m extending patient choice fund.A spokesperson said 'almost all'of that sum was being spent on a contract to send 105 patients to Cromwell Hospital this financial year.A similar number of patients will be sent next year.'We send a number of patients for ear nose and throat and orthopaedic procedures to private units in Truro, Plymouth and Torquay, but we are also sending cardiothoracic patients to the Cromwell because there are no private units that can do it in the South West.We are two years away from a building project that will extend our capacity and until then we will be sending patients to the Cromwell.'