Contracts were signed last week for Scotland's first privately run regional treatment centre for NHS patients.

Contracts were signed last week for Scotland's first privately run regional treatment centre for NHS patients.

NHS Tayside and Netcare UK agreed the deal, which is expected to deliver thousands of additional operations over the next three years.

The Scottish Regional Treatment Centre, based at Stracathro Hospital in Angus, will treat patients from Tayside, Fife and Grampian.

The£15m project will see patients treated in the evenings and weekends in an attempt to increase choice and reduce waiting times.

NHS Tayside chief operating officer Gerry Marr said: 'This£15m investment is totally over and above our existing NHS services. Patients will be treated in the same way as they would in the NHS system and receive the same consistent standards of care.'

He added that the investment would help sustainability and the long-term future of Stracathro, a rural hospital which has been the subject of a major campaign to keep it open. The centre is another example of small-scale use of the private sector in Scotland, which has so far stuck to the policy of using it only to offer additional services, not to invite competition with the NHS.

But Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Shona Robison said: 'I would have preferred to see this service provided within the NHS and under an SNP government that is what would happen. But if it's a choice between a private centre and no centre at all, then obviously I'd rather see the facility there for patients.'