19/12/2018 The Schoen Clinic in Marylebone - to go with Sarah Neville copy. Picture shows nurse, Christina Paiva.
The Schoen Clinic in London's Marylebone © Charlie Bibby/FT

A stone’s throw from Harley Street, the centre of London’s private healthcare industry, the newly opened Schoen Clinic is offering the ultimate luxury for the post-operative rich: privacy.

A suite of rooms can be accessed by private lift, ensuring patients and their visitors can enter and leave the hospital unobserved. Christopher Schoen, 30-year-old scion of the German hospital group’s founding family, said: “If we have a more VIP patient, or a patient travelling from abroad, they can have this entire floor.”

Just four months after the specialist spine and orthopaedic clinic’s largely unpublicised launch, part of the space is already occupied “about once every two weeks . . . and I’d say that [will build] over time”, he said.

Undeterred by the uncertainties of Brexit, some of the biggest international health brands are setting out their stall in the UK capital, determined to grab a slice of the largest concentration of paying patients in Europe.

The Lanserhof Spa, long an A-list staple for its regenerative treatments, has teamed up with the Arts Club in Mayfair and will next year open its first branch outside mainland Europe, while the Cleveland Clinic, a US hospital group renowned for providing some of the best care in the US, will soon open its first UK facility in the upmarket district of Belgravia.

They are set to vie with far longer-established healthcare brands for the loyalty and cash of customers seeking the ultimate in clinical care combined with a precious aura of exclusivity.

Why the London healthcare market is booming

Laing & Buisson, which provides analysis of the private healthcare market, reported last week that the central London self-pay market was “estimated to be growing at around 25 per cent per annum”.

Keith Pollard, executive chairman, said the new entrants into the market would put pressure on HCA, the hospital group which currently dominates the London private healthcare sector, but also leading NHS teaching hospitals such as the Royal Marsden, which generates about £100m from private patients. “The business will have to come from somewhere,” he added.

Mr Schoen, chief executive of the Schoen’s London branch, said that before deciding to invest in the UK capital, the group “looked at . . . Moscow, we looked at Warsaw, we looked at Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, but came to the conclusion that for us, as a company, London would be the best location because it has the highest private market in all of Europe”.

About 18 months ago the group took over a hospital for eating disorders in Birmingham and it will shortly open a day treatment centre for mental health problems in Chelsea. Mr Schoen was unambiguous about his ambition. “We would like to disrupt the London healthcare market,” he said.

19/12/2018 The Schoen Clinic in Marylebone - to go with Sarah Neville copy. Picture shows surgeon, Mr David Sweetnam.
Surgeon David Sweetnam at the Schoen Clinic © Charlie Bibby/FT

In contrast to some established hospital groups, all of Schoen’s doctors are directly employed by the clinic, in which it has invested £42m. Other elements it hopes will differentiate it from competitors include a system for continuous monitoring of individual doctors’ performance, with the data available to prospective patients, and its decision to staff its wards at night with “intensivists” — fully qualified consultants who specialise in the care of critically ill patients — rather than junior doctors.

Colin Natali, head of spine surgery at the clinic, suggested that the fight to dominate the private healthcare market was “a zero-sum game. There are only so many people that can be ill, and this is going to alter the whole landscape . . . Because why wouldn’t you come to the best?”

Mayfair’s mix of medical and members’ clubs

Meanwhile, the Lanserhof group is carving out a niche away from the city’s traditional medical district through its partnership with the Arts Club, a members-only club in Mayfair’s Dover Street.

Christian Harisch, chief executive of the Lanserhof group, said: “We don’t do ‘wellness’, we are not a wellness centre, we are medical.” But the service on offer is a million miles from a neighbourhood doctor’s office or the highest-end gym.

At a site in the former Dover Street Market, currently undergoing a £50m refurbishment, the sporty will be offered the ultimate in motivational tools: an MRI that allows them to see the state of their muscles before beginning an exercise regimen, and then again a year later “so you can see yourself what’s happening to your body”, said Mr Harisch.

The Arts Club Mayfair from PR
The Arts Club in Mayfair

A key distinguishing feature will be two cryotherapy chambers, where the strong of will and heart — a pre-treatment cardiac check is compulsory — will be exposed to temperatures up to 120C below zero.

“You lose up to 800 calories in one treatment of three minutes . . . the same calories as if you go running for half an hour in Hyde Park,” he said.

Not just top-notch clinicians but an array of other support staff will be available as befits the cash-rich, time-poor lifestyle of its target market. He said: “We also offer a clothes service, a butler service so that you don’t need to bring your own sportswear with you; everything is stored in the club . . . you could say ‘I’m in the City, I’m going to a meeting and I don’t want to take my bag with me all day’.”

“After training, you go to the [on-site] hairdresser, you [have a] wash and blow and so you just jump into the next meeting . . . and nobody will see that you were just on the treadmill for an hour,” he added.

Quality of NHS-trained doctors is big attraction

Although the average patient of the UK’s universal free-to-use National Health Service would struggle to afford the facilities of these new brands, the quality of NHS-trained doctors is a clear attraction for those seeking to gain a foothold in the London market.

Brian Donley, chief executive of Cleveland Clinic London, said a key lure for his not-for-profit group, which prides itself on being led by physicians, was London’s reputation as “the leading city for healthcare innovation and healthcare talent . . . we’re here to learn from the UK healthcare market”, he said.

“Some of the best that exists is in the NHS” and the group is “exploring many different possibilities and avenues of how we can collaborate with the NHS, around research, around education, around clinical care”, he added.

Back at the Lanserhof, Mr Harisch suggested that, however deep clients’ pockets, the search for a healthier life is a universal leveller: “[The] people who come to us . . .[may] have two planes, three ships, 10 cars but all of them have only one life and they want to have this life as long as possible in a great condition,” he added.

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