THE Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust is to set up a new private company to run its unit which disinfects and sterilises surgical instruments.

The Sterilisation and Disinfection Unit is currently part of the Trust but will soon come under a new company as part of a joint venture between the Trust and another company.

Negotiations are still underway with contracts to be signed later this month.

The joint venture will bring in funding for a new SDU facility to be built elsewhere on the hospital site. Construction work is expected to start in the autumn.

Hospital finance director Malcolm Cassells told a Trust board meeting on Monday: "We are very close to signing the shareholder agreement and staff are expected to transfer into the new company at the beginning of July."

He said plans for the new facility were being prepared for submission to Wiltshire Council.

He said: "This will free up capacity on Level 2 of the hospital which is quite important in terms of congestion in the Trust as a whole."

The SDU team comprises 50 staff who deal with instruments from the operating theatres within Salisbury District Hospital as well as those used by GP surgeries in the area, the south Wiltshire podiatry trays, local cosmetic surgery, emergency medics and four private hospitals.

The Salisbury unit also holds the Ministry of Defence contract which means that it receives all the instruments used in field hospital operations, such as Afghanistan, those used by fast response medics, the Royal Marines and on Navy warships.