A private healthcare company will announce sites for 12 new hospitals and five 'mini polyclinics' within the next two months.

Centres of Clinical Excellence is pushing ahead with expansion plans despite other private companies' concerns about the government's commitment to involving the independent sector in healthcare.

The firm said it expects to attract NHS work under the 'extended choice' programme and also some private patients.

Four sites for hospitals are already known - Warwick, Ashford, Tunbridge Wells and Plymouth - and others will be announced shortly.

The five mini clinics will be the first of 50, carrying out diagnostic work and procedures that do not need overnight stays, including ophthalmology, ear, nose and throat, and urology.

The company, which took over Nations Healthcare in June, already runs three independent treatment centres and is building its own flagship hospital near Bath.

Managing partner Ali Parsa said the company was happy to compete in a competitive market: 'We have not heard anything from the government which says they are going to curtail people's choice. I am pretty confident that our investment is the right thing to do,' said Mr Parsa.

Nuffield Hospitals chief executive David Mobbs said recently the private sector was 'tired and jaded' and had little to show for its involvement with the NHS (for more background, click here).

But Mr Parsa said the onus was on his company to provide a service which would prove attractive to patients.

Clinics would fit in with the government vision of polyclinics and would treat patients who did not need to be in hospital.

The company is part-owned by GPs and consultants - many of whom are expected to work in the new facilities - but also has funding from city investors.