Trusts purchase private hospitals

PPU Watch

Compiled by Philip Housden

In separate deals, two NHS trusts have expanded their private patient businesses with acquisitions from the independent hospital sector. 

The Royal United Hospitals Bath Foundation Trust has bought Circle Bath as part of a deal with the competition regulator relating to Circle’s takeover of BMI Healthcare, as both firms had hospitals in the city. 

To be renamed Sulis Hospital Bath – after the Roman name for the town, Aqua Sulis – it currently provides services for private and NHS patients. The trust said the move would ‘increase capacity at the facility for the benefit of all patients – both NHS and private’.  

The trust’s private patient income in 2019-20 was £882,000, an increase of 37% from the previous year, and this is set to increase substantially as the trust has undertaken to maintain 30% private patient activity at the site. 

It is understood the annual private income of the Circle Hospital is less than £10m.

East Sussex Healthcare Trust (ESHT) has also used NHS capital to buy Spire Sussex Hospital, which is physically linked to the trust’s Conquest Hospital in Hastings. The building has been leased to Spire and operated as a private hospital since 1997.

The trust is planning to use the 22 beds and two operating theatres to expand private patient services following the transfer, which will complete at the end of the present financial year. 

ESHT chief executive Joe Chadwick-Bell told a board meeting the deal ‘would enhance the trust’s ability to recruit and retain consultants and would give more choice for patients’. 

The trust had an income of £3m a year in 2019-20 from its current private patient service the Michel­ham Unit at the East­bourne District General Hospital, an increase of £834,000 and 39% on £2.1m the previous year. 

These acquisitions follow other recent similar moves by NHS trusts. Mid Cheshire Hospitals Trust completed the purchase from BMI of the South Cheshire Hospital at Crewe on the Leighton Hospital NHS campus in 2020.  

The trust now benefits from two additional theatres and 32 beds, but private patient incomes declined in 2019-20 by £300,000 (20%) to £1.2m from the £1.5m revenues achieved in 2018-19. 

In Norfolk, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, purchased in September 2019 the onsite BMI Sandringham Hospital, with 30 inpatient beds and two additional operating theatres. 

Although income in 2019-20 was relatively low at £125,000, this was up £61,000 and 95% on the previous year.

Is this the start of a wider trend?