AN around-the-clock accident and emergency service at Hong Kong's newest private hospital is expected to take pressure off the over-stretched Prince of Wales Hospital. The Union Hospital in Tai Wai will operate the 24-hour outpatient clinic from next Thursday after running only a 16-hour service since opening in June. Chief executive Dr Ben Fong Yuk-fai said: ''I am sure our 24-hour service will help the Prince of Wales because at the moment anyone who gets sick after midnight has to go there [Sha Tin] or to Kowloon. ''There will now be another choice and I think there are bound to be people, such as those living in Fanling and Tai Po, who prefer not to travel as far as Kowloon.'' But the chief executive of Prince of Wales Hospital, Dr Alison Reid, said there had been no evidence the neighbouring private hospital had started to ease the public hospital's workload. Dr Reid added: ''We hope the new hospital will decant some of our workload although I think it will take a bit of time to make an impact. ''But it certainly has the potential to take some of the pressure off the Prince of Wales and it may mean our own service will become a lot better.'' Dr Reid pointed out that some people with serious injuries had to go to the Prince of Wales Hospital because they needed the support services which only the public hospital could provide, although people with less serious problems could opt for the private hospital. The attendance rate at the Prince of Wales Hospital's accident and emergency department has continued to creep up, with the present average of 550 patients per day representing a five per cent increase on the same time last year. Dr Fong said he believed some people using the Prince of Wales Hospital's outpatient service were able and willing to pay for a private hospital. A standard consultation with a consultant at Union Hospital's outpatient clinic costs between $300 and $500 from 8 am to 10 pm, and between $600 and $1,100 from 10 pm to 8 am. A consultation with a junior resident doctor costs $120 from 8 am to 10 pm and $200 from 10 pm to 8 am. Union Hospital, which is the first general private hospital in the eastern New Territories, has 212 inpatient beds in its first phase although it has room for another 400. Dr Fong added: ''People in the area are already starting to become aware of our service but we will continue to publicise the hospital to the medical profession and local residents.'' But Dr Reid said she believed many people in the eastern New Territories were not yet aware that they had a new choice in hospital services.