The making of a successful PPU

With a week to go before the NHS Private Patient Service Development event is held on Tuesday 19th March 2019, at Royal Derby Hospital, Derby we are counting down our top seven key areas for action for Trusts that together make up the ingredients for success. We call this our PP Audit Tool – and each day this week we are picking out examples of good practice from that list. Today is #6, Capacity.

The provision of dedicated capacity for private patients is a challenge for many NHS Trusts. Private medical insurers are really looking for separate patient physical journeys through the Trust campus and a sense of ‘place’ for private patients.

To meet this challenge the place to start can be through the flexible use of space between NHS and private practice during particular times of the day or week. It may be that private patients can use Trust facilities at weekends or in the evenings when many NHS services are not running. This works well in some Trusts for access to diagnostic imaging or radiotherapy, for example. We have worked with one Trust recently where the best physical answer to private patient services market re-entry is the setting up of a modestly sized 5 room ambulatory day unit. Where there is no other present PP provision this has proven to work very well and establishes the proof of concept investment case for investment in future growth.

When it comes to inpatient beds, and prior to investment in a separate private patient ward, some hospitals attempt to use single side-rooms on NHS wards. While this has a place in specialist units, for example paediatrics, it does not fit well with expectations of consultants and their patients.

What we have found is that the first step towards a dedicated private ward can include conversion of any presently underused estate, if capital is available, and that a refurbished unit as small as six beds can still be demonstrated to be profitable as a first phase. Alternatively, ring-fenced PP beds within a larger ward can really be made to operate effectively as a win-win for both private patients and the NHS if capacity is controlled by the PPU management team. A forward admissions plan can balance out the peaks and troughs of PP demand with agreed local elective NHS activity – while also ensuring a ‘take bed’ is left for an insured patient found within the Trust at short notice.

You can find more details about this year’s conference with this link: