The private healthcare sector has partnered with NHS England as part of the response to coronavirus, the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) has said.
The partnership includes making thousands of hospital beds available and using staff working for independent sector providers at every level.
‘It’s important to be clear that over the next few weeks, until there is a national decision, both NHS and private planned care will continue in independent providers,’ said David Hare, chief executive officer of IHPN. ‘We are doing everything we can to make sure people can still get access to care until the point when it is agreed to focus exclusively on Covid-19 and essential services.’
The announcement was made as part of NHS England’s improvement guidance published today (17 March) on the next steps to be taken by the health service in response to Covid-19.
The steps were outlined in a letter sent by NHS chief executive Simon Stevens and chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard.
In the guidance, NHS England said it is in the process of block-buying capacity in independent hospitals, which should be completed within a fortnight.
Once complete, staff and facilities will be flexibly available for urgent surgery, as well as for repurposing their beds, operating theatres and recovery facilities to provide respiratory support for Covid-19 patients.
‘NHS trusts and foundation trusts should free up their own private pay beds where they exist. In addition, community health providers and social care providers are asked to free up community hospital and intermediate care beds that could be used flexibly within the next fortnight. These measures together could free up to 10,000 beds,’ the letter said.