Blackpool is benefiting to the tune of £1million a year from Northern Irish patients being flown to the resort for surgery.
Spire Healthcare Hospital, on St Walburgas Road, Blackpool, is one of a number of private facilities in the North West treating more than 4,800 patients from the country.
Patients are put up in some of the resort’s top hotels, including the Hilton and De Vere, and cared for by the private hospital – all at the expense of the NHS.
Its worth to Blackpool though is “substantial” according to hospital bosses.
Hospital director Liz Cousins said: “It’s an important bit of our business.”
The deal has seen thousands of inpatients flown to the North West since it was first established six years ago, with 1,153 patients flying over in 2008/09 , 1,300 in 2009/10, 745 in 2010/11, 920 in 2011/12, 185 in 2012/13, then 538 in 2013/14.
But hospital bosses say the numbers have seen £15m spent, with £5m in the first year alone, as Spire carry out outpatient, inpatient and day cases for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
The trust has said these costs cover all surgical work, travel and accommodation costs.
Around £1m a year of this is benefiting Spire on the Fylde coast alone, according to hospital bosses, and they anticipate it is worth a good deal to Blackpool too.
Mrs Cousins added: “It’s worth £1m to the hospital per year, it’s substantial, especially with regards to the contributions patients make while they are here.”
A spokesman for the health and social care board said: “In Northern Ireland, demand for orthopaedics services exceeds current available capacity.
“In the interim, the Health and Social Care Board is procuring additional capacity from independent sector providers.”
Spire hospital’s eight orthopaedic and three general surgeons, along with nursing staff, will travel to Northern Ireland to carry out clinics with patients.
Patients will then fly to the North West and travel to Blackpool with a relative or friend for between one and five days, put up in hotels including the Hilton and De Vere and transported around by Premier Cabs.
Mrs Cousins added: “It’s bringing money into the community. These patients are staying here and contributing.
“We provide the support and logistics, safe and good accommodation, and the fact that it’s in Blackpool is a bonus.
“People love Blackpool, it has the added attraction of things to do while they are here. But it’s not a holiday, it’s surgery. We’ve got to make sure it’s absolutely safe for them.”