Laboratory work is one example. Firms such as Australian-owned The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) and US firm Quintiles are being touted as the up-and-coming forces in laboratory development work in conjunction with NHS trusts.
TDL has just completed one development in a joint venture with University College London Hospital on a site opposite the new £225m Euston Road hospital development. A recent statement from the hospital trust said the pathology laboratory on Whitfield Street was "the largest of its kind in the UK".
One consultant involved in the Whitfield Street project says the public–private partnership could, if successful, result in many more springing up around the country. "There's a spotlight on this in the medical world right now," he says.
Another offshoot in the medical field are firms offering private checks-ups – you turn up on spec for a consultation and pay about £30. As well as the well-established BUPA, other firms offering this service include WellCare, U-First Healthcare, Medicentre and Casualty Plus. All of them are taking advantage of patients' irritation at having to wait days, or even weeks, to get an appointment with their local GP.
Casualty Plus has received most attention after it opened a £3.5m facility in Brentford, west London, built by Bluestone, the regional arm of Morgan Sindall. And this is just the beginning, says Craige Coren, the property director Casualty Plus. The firm is looking at six potential locations for new surgeries, five of which are in London and the South-east and one in Manchester. Coren says he is looking at existing buildings or new-builds, but adds: "Buying sites to build on ourselves would be perfect."
The typical Casualty Plus centre will be between 1000 m2 and 1500 m2 in size, depending on whether it has theatres or not. And Coren insists the firm is trying to "create an environment that is not a hospital". "Our surgeries have comfortable receptions with plasma screens and free tea and coffee," he says. "And we have air fresheners to stop it smelling like a hospital."