• University Hospitals Plymouth Trust agrees deal with Care UK
  • All elective orthopaedic work to move to Care UK facility
  • Partnership aims to boost trust resilience against winter pressures

A hospital trust will move its entire elective orthopaedic service to a private company’s facility after agreeing an 18 month partnership.

Surgeons and anaesthetists at University Hospitals Plymouth Trust will move to a facility run by Care UK to operate on around 200 patients per month, in a bid to free up  space during winter. They will remain trust employees but be managed jointly by Care UK.

The trust hopes the partnership with the company will “virtually eliminate” year long waits for orthopaedic patients, and improve its referral-to-treatment performance in the 18 week pathway by 3.5 per cent – both by the end of March next year.

The number of patients waiting a year or longer for treatment rose from 10 to 88 between December 2017 and May 2018.

In August, 63.8 per cent of the trust’s trauma and orthopaedic patients were treated within 18 weeks of referral. The national target is 92 per cent.

Emergency orthopaedic work, including orthopaedic operations involving major trauma, and patients requiring complex care will continue to be provided at the trust. 

It comes after last winter’s “unprecedented impact” on patients waiting for planned surgery, when the trust experienced a 4 per cent growth in emergency department attendances and a 6 per cent rise in emergency admissions.

This year, the trust has been in discussions with Care UK and members of NHS Improvement’s Getting It Right First Time programme about working closer together to prevent the same happening again.

Under the agreed deal, UHP staff will operate on the patients at the Peninsula Treatment Centre, which is managed by Care UK and situated less than a mile away from the trust’s Derriford Hospital.

The trust will use the space created for neurosurgery, and the treatment of other acute patients.

Commissioners will pay the trust for all activity, with UHP using Care UK as a subcontractor. 

Ann James, chief executive of the trust, and Jim Easton, chief executive of Care UK, described the venture as “effectively a managed service”.

They said the trust would be a “pioneer” in creating a hot/cold site split of its emergency and elective orthopaedic service.

“This is a different kind of integrated care model where a trust is geographically challenged on a single site and unable to support a split between trauma and elective work alone,” Ms James said.

It is hoped the partnership will unlock “untapped financial benefit” by collaborating on procurement in orthopaedics.

UHP will also be able to plan its work better, which will improve the efficiency of the trust’s theatres, the chiefs said.

The model will be overseen by a joint clinical board chaired by the trust’s service line director for orthopaedics.

Mr Easton said: “Services will remain free at the point of delivery and the project will allow UPH to focus wholly on prioritising high quality care during the busy winter period.”