NHS in discussions with private sector over cancer treatment support

The NHS is in talks with the private healthcare sector to assist with urgent cancer surgery following large-scale cancellations in London hospitals.

The cancellations are a result of bed shortages as Covid-19 patients overwhelm hospitals, The Observer revealed.

Private provider HCA Healthcare UK said it is supporting local trusts where it is needed, primarily with cancer and cardiac surgeries.

The trusts HCA is supporting include Guy’s and St Thomas’, University College London Hospital, Royal Free Hospital, North Middlesex University Hospital, Whittington Health, St Peter’s Hospital, The Hillingdon Hospitals, Imperial College Healthcare, Chelsea and Westminster, King’s College Hospital and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.

GenesisCare has said it is ready to support the health service.

‘With the current lockdown it’s clear that the NHS is under perhaps even greater pressure than in previous waves and this can only serve to further compound the impact on cancer services,’ said James McArthur, general manager UK at the private cancer care provider.

‘As a member of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network we stand ready to support the NHS in the treatment of cancer patients throughout the UK and would welcome discussions with any trusts that require our support but more so we would urge the NHS to actively identify cancer patients with private medical insurance and encourage them to save the NHS capacity for Covid patients by accessing premier national healthcare providers such as GenesisCare,’ McArthur added.

Check4Cancer chief executive officer Gordon Wishart believes the independent sector needs to protect the capacity for private treatment it has at the moment and support the NHS where it is in need of help.

‘We have been in discussions with the NHS last year about helping with bowel cancer screening with our at-home tests. They also asked advice about at-home HPV testing, but they haven’t come back to us at all this year about that. I think they’re just completely overwhelmed with Covid and just don’t have that capacity to think outside the box about how best to approach,’ he said.

On private sector involvement with the NHS, Mike Moran, CEO of Rutherford Health, said: ‘I think the backlog is unfortunate but now it will take a combined effort from the NHS, and the independent sector to reduce that backlog and get back to pre Covid levels, but more importantly, there is maybe an opportunity here to use Covid as a catalyst for change.

‘There’s an opportunity to look at more independent sector involvement in cancer services, and in particular, in terms of the broader use of proton beam therapy as well.’