COMMERCIAL: A mental health trust has entered into a groundbreaking joint venture with a private company to deliver services to the NHS.

Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust and Care UK will jointly run two units – one in Sussex, the other in Hampshire - through a new company Recovery and Rehabilitation Partnership Ltd. The partners in the venture will share any profits – and potentially losses – and are making equal capital investments in the units.

Richard Ford, director of strategic development at the trust, said the two partners had similar ideas around providing safe but intensive care for people to rebuild their lives.

‘In the NHS, we sometimes find it very difficult to do things as quickly as we would like….we wanted to work with a partner who could help us do this quicker,’ he said. ‘Our aim was always to provide the best possible service we could for people coming out of more institutional settings.’

The trust had a large and skilled staff and could bring clinical expertise into the new services, together with links into the whole system.

‘We don’t have the same commercial expertise as some of the private sector does – though I think that is changing fast,’ he said. It had taken ‘a couple of years’ for the idea of working with a commercial partner to come to fruition.

A new development in Crawley will provide care for 24 people in self-contained accommodation with shared areas. It will help people progress towards full independence. The trust already owns suitable land and this will be part of its investment into the project.

In Gosport – which is outside the trust’s normal area of operation – the new company is taking over a 32 bed step-down rehabilitation hospital, Nelson House.  It was previously run by a private company bit has now been acquired by the joint venture and will continue to operate recovery and rehabilitation services.

Mr Ford said this ‘looked like a really good opportunity for us’ as it was a specialist service where the trust had a good track record in provision.

The new company offers the potential for the trust to operate other hospitals outside its core area. However, Mr Ford said the board might feel that some prospects would be too geographically distant. ‘We do have to make sure that whatever we do makes sense,’ he added.  The trust planned ‘make a reasonable surplus’ on what it did.

Dr Alison Rose-Quirie, Care UK’s managing director of mental health services, said: ‘We believe that this joint venture is the first of its kind in the country. Our partnership brings together the best of the NHS and the independent sector for the benefit of those who will use our services’