PRIVATE hospitals are enjoying a £52m tax break on their business rates bill through their charitable statuses while the region’s NHS hospitals are facing crippling hikes, an investigation has revealed.

More than one in four of all private hospitals are estimated to be registered as charities and can benefit from rate relief of up to 80 per cent – a tax perk worth £241.4m to those organisations.

However, figures released by business rent and rates specialists CVS shows North-East hospitals are expected to see their annual rates soar by 21 per cent over the next five years.

The tax hike comes after Government changes made to business rate systems came into effect in April which will see NHS Foundation Trusts across the country sharing a £1.83bn rates bill before 2022.

The study is released amid growing concerns over the future of services offered by North-East hospitals.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust’s (CDDFT) Darlington Memorial Hospital and the South Tees NHS Foundation Trust’s Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton, could both have their accident and emergency departments downgraded.

Under proposals to overhaul NHS systems, the region’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan has envisaged that by 2020 there will be just two specialist emergency hospitals in the region – Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital and either Darlington Memorial or North Tees at Stockton.

Mark Rigby, chief executive of CVS, said: “It is iniquitous that NHS hospitals pay normal business rates but 26.9 per cent of private hospitals, using charitable status, receive an 80 per cent discount.”

He welcomed the Government's plans to review the business rates system, but added “this must include all reliefs and the current inequalities that exist within the system”.

In the North-East, the not-for-profit Nuffield Health Tees Hospital, in Stockton, has seen its property valuation used to calculate business rates fall from £134,000 to £119,000 under the revaluation.

The private hospital, which specialises in cosmetic surgery, spinal surgery, vascular surgery, eye care and orthopaedics, has a charity status and contributes to Nuffield Health being Britain’s third largest charity by income.

The Tees Hospital, which has primarily treated patients from Stockton, Darlington and Middlesbrough since 1981, will pay £62,149 out of its £310,747 five years projected rates bill.

NHS Trusts elsewhere in the country have confirmed that they will appeal the new evaluation formula and also apply for retrospective rebates on rates bills dating back to 2010.

A spokesman for Trusts that are campaigning to receive the same tax reliefs as private hospitals, said: “NHS Trusts receive no additional funding to offset business rates costs.

“We are therefore, alongside other NHS Trusts, part of a long-running challenge to seek a similar level of charitable relief on business rates similar to non-profit organisations.”

A Nuffield Health spokesman said: “Our not-for-profit status is a guarantee that any operating surpluses are reinvested back into the business, for the improvement of services, rather than being removed from the organisation as dividends.

“The assets of the trust may only ever be used for not-for-profit purposes, consistent with the wishes of our founders.”