health

Covid patients to be sent to private hospitals under NHS deal



M

ore NHS patients could be treated in private hospitals to safeguard the health service against an “unsustainable” surge in Covid patients and staff absences.

A three-month deal was announced on Monday morning by NHS England that puts the independent sector on standby to assist with problems being caused by the Omicron variant.

At the same time, NHS hospitals have been told to identify areas such as gyms and education centres that can be used to create “super surge” wards on top of their usual surge capacity.

The deal allows NHS trusts to send a wider range of patients to private hospitals, including those requiring some forms of cancer surgery and other care not normally delivered under existing contracts.

The arrangement would only be triggered if the NHS’s ability to provide urgent care were threatened by the number of Covid patients requiring treatment.

Latest figures in London suggest the number of Covid patients being admitted daily has fallen from more than 500 a day in the middle of last week to just over 300.

There are also hopes that the number of Covid inpatients has plateaued after peaking at more than 4,000 between Christmas and New Year.

The private hospitals involved in the deal include Spire Healthcare, Nuffield Health and the Circle Health Group.

If NHS trusts or local networks need to trigger the surge element of the new deal routine services at an independent sector site will be suspended to make facilities and staff available to the health service.

Nightingale hubs are already being created in the grounds of some hospitals, such as St George’s in Tooting, as part of a move to create up to 4,000 extra beds.



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