Published: 31/10/2002, Volume II2, No. 5829 Page 4 5

Ten NHS organisations are planning to set up new centres staffed by overseas teams as part of the government's patient choice scheme, HSJ has learned. Some expect to start treating patients by next spring.

The 10 organisations - which will act as 'demonstration sites' for the Department of Health's international establishment project - are a mixture of strategic health authorities, acute trusts and primary care trusts.

Last Friday, they met potential overseas providers at a DoHsponsored meeting in London to discuss how to bring their proposals forward.

The 10 demonstration sites are:

Greater Manchester SHA, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear SHA, Dorset and Somerset SHA, Surrey and Sussex SHA, South West Peninsula SHA, Trent SHA, Royal Orthopaedic Hospital trust, Burton Hospitals trust, Plymouth PCT and North Bradford PCT.

Overseas providers at the meeting included Germedic, German Medicine Net, Swedish company Capio, and US-based Amsburg.

Greater Manchester SHA is proposing to develop a diagnosis and treatment centre to treat patients from across the Manchester area.

A spokesman told HSJ: 'We are looking at setting up a facility for treating patients across the patch, and we are exploring the options at the moment. This is more about having a facility that we would then invite overseas providers to come in and run.'

He said that although the DTC would be run and managed by the private company, which would also provide the clinical staff, 'it would make sense for the trust [where the DTC was based] to provide the support services'.

North Bradford PCT, which discussed its proposal at a board meeting last week, is looking to develop a local care centre in Eccleshill, which would be both owned and managed by an overseas provider.

The PCT is proposing to use a 1.7 acre site it has the use of, where an 18-bed intermediate care hospital is already being built and where there are further plans for a GP surgery, chemist and an outpatient facility. The PCT wants to develop a day-case surgery and diagnostic centre, with the aim of eliminating waiting times for diagnostic procedures and reducing waiting times for day case and some inpatient surgery to two weeks.

Chief executive Dr Ian Rutter said: 'Maximum waiting times would be two weeks for the diagnostic visit and a further two weeks for treatment. It is our intention to develop this facility in close partnership with Bradford Hospitals trust and our other NHS healthcare partners.'

The PCT 'plans to use expertise from its own local GP specialists, from consultants and from the private sector to staff the centre'.

Trent SHA is proposing to develop a joint venture with a private hospital in Chesterfield and an overseas provider. SHA assistant director of performance Bob Waterhouse told HSJ: 'Our joint venture proposal is a stand-alone facility focusing on orthopaedics, where we know we have some pressures in our capacity plan to deliver the waiting times.

'One of the features is that we have a local private hospital which is willing to go into partnership with us to provide beds. The international provider would bring in staff, provide pre-op assessment, and post-op and first outpatient appointments. It is Trent-wide and is part of our patient choice pilot.

'The timescale is likely to be stretching over the next six to 10 months.We are wanting to introduce this as soon as possible, but there is further work to do. In terms of service specifications and other requirements, it is likely to be that sort of timescale. We are looking for about two thousand episodes in the first year.'

German Medicine Net managing director Hans Finck, who attended last week's meeting, said the overseas providers were studying the documents provided by the NHS organisations and would then consider which to tender for.

He said his company had formed partnerships with an equity investment group and two facilities management groups, which would jointly tender for contracts.

He said: 'We intend to tender for the majority of them, or at least to enter into initial talks with the various trusts. I am sure the only way to make it work is with UK partners who have a long experience of the way the NHS works and the way government tenders work.'