A new company is aiming to create a chain of private 'emergency care units' for people willing to pay to bypass long waits in NHS accident and emergency departments.

Emergency plus will test the idea with a pilot unit, due to open in Byfleet, Surrey, on Saturday.

Advance publicity says treatment will include stitching cuts, setting fractures, x-ray and pathology services and minor surgery, with a 'standard'£25 consultation fee payable on arrival.

Director Brian Liston, who gave his background as running a medical recruitment agency, said he founded the company after an 'unpleasant' wait in a local A&E when his son burned his foot.

'We think there are people, like ourselves, who are prepared to pay, which will help everybody else,' he said. He insists the service is designed to 'alleviate pressure on NHS A&E departments', rather than undermine them.

North West Surrey community health council chief officer Paul Mitchell said: 'There is undoubted pressure on A&E departments in our area, and we would not be carping about anything that could help.'

'But what we really need, in the longer term, is a more whole-systems approach. That will take investment, and we would like that to come from the NHS.'

The£2.5m unit will be led by a consultant and will transfer serious cases to Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford. Its medical director, Dr Martin Smith, said: 'It is appalling that we are making people wait in A&E - our A&E has been a battlefield for months.

'More money would be very welcome, but if we cannot have it then I think we should be willing to give this sort of thing a try.'

A spokesperson for West Surrey health authority confirmed it had been asked to register the unit, but said it had not finished making final checks.