Committee of Public Accounts


Press Notice No. 23 of Session 2002-03, dated 18 June 2003


TWENTY-THIRD REPORT: INNOVATION IN THE NHS: THE ACQUISITION OF THE HEART HOSPITAL (HC 299)

Mr Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said today that the acquisition of the Heart Hospital was a great success, achieved through quick and well managed risk taking by the University College London NHS Hospitals Trust.

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 23rd Report of this Session, which examined the management by the Trust of the acquisition of the Heart Hospital from private owners Parkway Holdings Limited. In September 2001, the Trust acquired the hospital (in the Harley Street district of London) and its equipment at £8.5 million less than the independent valuation and some £17.5 million less than the estimated cost of a new construction. By 2003-04, the Trust expects that the acquisition will enable it to treat double the number of patients in need of revascularisations-cardiac procedures to improve the blood flow to the heart.

The Committee found that the acquisition of the Heart Hospital was well conducted, avoiding procedural obstacles but with due attention to risk. It represents a strategically important addition to NHS capacity which is bringing clear benefits to patients. It enabled the Trust to reduce rapidly its maximum waiting times for cardiac treatment, from 12 months in September 2001 to below 6 months by July 2002.

Many patients in other parts of the country are, however, waiting much longer than 6 months for cardiac treatment. As the Trust increases revascularisation activity to full capacity of 2,800 in 2003-04, it should seek to reduce waiting lists elsewhere, for example by marketing the hospital to out-of-area general practitioners as a potential cardiac treatment site for their patients.

The Department of Health was able to fund the acquisition of the Heart Hospital from underspending on other capital projects. The Department has since established what it terms an NHS bank, with the aim of providing risk reserves for Primary Care Trusts and overdraft facilities for NHS Trusts, and a means of investment for long term and innovative capital projects. The Department should provide guidance on the relative role of the NHS bank and other forms of funding that could be used to finance innovative capital projects.

The Trust would not have achieved the acquisition in five months, and the resulting patient benefits, if it had followed the Department's normal, time-consuming procedures. Other investments capable of delivering patient benefits may similarly require quick decisions. The Department should develop its formal approvals procedures to allow fast track decision making where warranted.

Mr Leigh said today:

"The innovative acquisition of the Heart Hospital by University College London NHS Hospitals Trust has doubled its capacity for cardiac treatments and halved waiting times for its patients. This is a great success, achieved through quick and well managed risk taking by the Trust.

The Department of Health must learn from this experience and develop its procedures to allow fast track decision making where opportunities like this arise. It should also provide guidance to Trusts on the role of the new NHS Bank and other forms of funding for innovative projects."


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