HEALTHCARE campaigners have slammed a rebranded private wing at the Great Western Hospital.

The 20-bed Shalbourne Private Health Care ward offers a range of services, including cosmetic skin treatments and eye surgeries. Patients at the private facility would enjoy shorter waiting times, the hospital said.

The private ward – which was previously known as the Shalbourne Suite – is opening its doors to the public this afternoon.

Ricardo Windas, Great Western Hospital’s director of private patients, said: “While the Trust already offers patients an incredibly reliable service, we’re proud that we can now also offer an attractive private healthcare option, alongside our NHS services.”

The hospital said that access to state-of-the-art NHS facilities, such as an intensive care unit, would make the Shalbourne more attractive to prospective patients than other private healthcare facilities.

Ricardo Windas said: “We are in the unique position of being able to offer high quality healthcare in a premium environment, alongside the safety of the specialist services associated with the NHS. This includes access to an on-site intensive care unit, CT scanner, and cardiology suite, facilities which are often not immediately accessible with other private healthcare options.”

In the 2015/16 financial year, paying private patients brought in almost £2.5 million to the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The hospital said income from paying patients would be invested back into NHS services at the Great Western.

However, campaigners from the Swindon branch of Keep Our NHS Public have questioned whether the NHS should be offering private services at all.

Samantha Wathen, co-founder of the group, said: “We’re opposed to private healthcare on ethical grounds. We believe that any funding for the hospital should be coming from central government.

“The hospital shouldn’t need to be propped up by private patients. It is against the ideology of the NHS.”

The campaigner, who helped set up the Swindon branch of Keep Our NHS Public after enjoying “amazing” care from NHS staff following complications with the birth of her daughter, said that she did not blame staff at the hospital.

“It’s no wonder that NHS managers who are financially under threat will look to private healthcare,” she said.

“We want a publicly accountable service that is free for all.”