Plans to to give NHS patients the option to be seen quicker via local private hospitals has been welcomed in Dorchester.

The findings from a government report have been hailed as 'great news' from The Winterbourne Hospital's director Theresa Starling.

She was pleased to learn that the government will introduce new ways for hospitals like the Winterbourne to help the NHS tackle long waiting lists and give NHS patients the choice of being seen faster. 

This news comes after more than half a million doctor's appointments in Dorset involved a wait of more than three weeks - among  the longest in the country.

Patients at Dorset County Hospital receiving general surgery services are also having waits of up to six months on average before receiving treatment.

Mrs Starling said:  "This report – setting out new ways for us to work with the NHS to give patients the chance to choose faster care at The Winterbourne Hospital and help bring down waiting lists – is a great news for patients.

"We have a proud record of supporting the NHS and are committed to doing everything in our power to help. "

READ: Dorset County Hospital cancer treatment waiting times rise

The government’s newly created ‘Independent Patient Choice and Procurement Panel’ made a series of recommendations to give NHS patients stuck on waiting lists the chance to choose faster treatment at a local private hospital.

These include publishing data on appointments that are available at local private hospitals to NHS patients but going unused, more information for local GPs to help give patients the choice to be referred on the NHS to a private hospital with a shorter waiting list, and new powers for the panel to investigate restrictions on patient choice. 

READ: Health Secretary in DCH visit on cancer waiting times

The Winterbourne Hospital also has a long history of stepping up to support the NHS.

During the Covid pandemic, staff rallied to support thousands of local NHS patients to get urgent treatment that would otherwise have been cancelled or postponed.  

The hospital has welcomed the opportunity to support the wider healthcare system in Dorchester at a time when pressures are at an all time high.  

Mrs Starling added: "The positive relationships built with the NHS locally during the pandemic showed that working collaboratively can and will benefit patients in desperate need of support.

"We stand ready to work with them again to help local NHS patients get the care they need in a timely manner."

The Winterbourne Hospital is part of the Circle Health Group, an award-winning healthcare provider operating Britain’s largest network of independent hospitals.

The group acquired BMI Healthcare in January 2020 and also runs integrated care programmes and rehabilitation services.