Mental health trust strikes deal with private firm to double bed numbers

Sussex Partnership NHS Trust says joint venture with Care UK is “good deal” for patients, but unions raise privatisation fears

An NHS mental health trust has set up a joint venture with a private sector firm that will almost double its number of rehabilitation and recovery beds.

The deal between Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and private health firm Care UK has involved the purchase of the 32-bed rehabilitation mental hospital in Gosport, Hampshire for £8m. A further 24 beds in self-contained accommodation will be created by the end of the year.

The move will boost the total number of mental health recovery and rehabilitation beds available to patients from 77 to 133. The deal between the trust and Care UK involves the formation of a joint venture company, Recovery and Rehabilitation Partnership Ltd, which will employ all staff.

NHS bosses said that the move is a “good deal” for the health service that meets the need for more beds. But unions are concerned about staff being moved out of the NHS to a private firm as well as the level of control Care UK will have within the new venture.

Steve Brazier, Unison’s head of health in the South East, said: “One of our concerns is that the NHS badge will be used to give legitimacy to what is in effect a private firm taking over services.”
A Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “The ownership between Care UK and the trust is a 50/50 split. This is a good deal for the NHS. There is a need for more beds and we have seen an opportunity to expand the service to meet that need.”

Dr Alison Rose-Quirie, Care UK’s managing director of mental health services, added: “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.”

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