All private hospital capacity in England will be turned over en bloc to the NHS to help fight the Coronavirus pandemic as part of an unprecedented agreement between the independent sector and the NHS, reports Healthcare Markets. Some cancer treatments and all elective surgeries are likely to be postponed.
Under the deal, 8,000 independent hospital beds across England, almost 1,200 ventilators and nearly 20,000 staff, including 700 doctors and more than 10,000 nurses, will be re-provisioned for the NHS as it gears up for the anticipated surge in cases of COVID-19.
Over 2,000 of the hospital beds and 250 operating theatres and critical care beds are in London, which is currently at the epicentre of the UK outbreak.
Independent providers will be reimbursed at cost with no profit made and external auditors will verify the public funds being deployed.
Individual providers are fine tuning details with NHS England but the agreement is expected to include the treatment of Coronavirus patients and the delivery of NHS cancer and urgent treatment. It commenced on Monday 23 March and will last for at least three months.
Spire Healthcare said it would continue to treat NHS and private elective patients next week while it prepared its hospitals and colleagues for full use by the NHS. However, it has already halted operations on patients aged over 70 and others with underlying health conditions in line with clinical guidance and from 30 March, the entire capacity of its 35 hospitals will be dedicated to NHS activity.
Nuffield Health said it was possible that three of its hospitals would be used to provide cancer care to NHS patients while the remaining 27 focus on both COVID-19 and other urgent NHS cases.
The charity said it was also making its 14 nurseries available to children of NHS staff and key workers, as well as reviewing how it can use its network of clinical employees, physiologists, physiotherapists and personal trainers to offer further support.
Circle Health and BMI Healthcare said that as well as providing all 2,500 beds across its 54 hospitals and clinics, the group’s two hospitals in China were providing shared learning and supplies based on their experience of COVID-19.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the deal as ‘great news for the hospitals and staff doing everything they can to combat Coronavirus’.
David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network said: ‘Independent hospitals are boosting emergency capacity to put at the disposal of the NHS over these coming weeks. We have worked hand-in-hand with the NHS for decades and will do whatever it takes to support the NHS in responding to this pandemic.
‘This significant additional capacity across the country will be a major boost to the NHS’s efforts to treat those patients that need hospital care over the coming period and the independent sector stands ready to maintain that support for as long as needed.’