Independent hospitals have been given the go-ahead to resume some private and elective surgery after NHS England (NHSE) triggered a ‘de-escalation’ clause in the historic contract signed with the sector in March to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
Private hospitals will now be able to treat insured and self-pay patients provided they obtain prior approval from the NHS.
However, under the agreement independent sector capacity remains block booked by NHSE until the end of June and rising NHS waiting lists mean there will be pressure on NHS trusts and commissioners to use it for waiting-list work.
Recent analysis by Health Service Journal suggests the Covid-19 elective surgery shut down has pushed average waiting times to six months, and lead to a sharp increase in the number of patients waiting more than a year for routine operations.
Chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network David Hare said: ‘With the peak of the Covid-19 ‘surge’ pressures having eased for now, it is right that the NHS is permitting, where appropriate, the delivery of non-urgent routine elective surgery and cancer treatments for both NHS and private patients under the current contracts held between NHS England and independent sector providers in England.’