The NHS has been instructed to “urgently secure” private resources for patients whose treatment has been delayed by the pandemic.
Staff shortages and rising numbers of Covid patients has seen a growing number of hospital trusts declaring “critical incidents” and Sajid Javid has told the NHS to boost capacity by making “use of the independent sector if needed”, the Telegraph reports.
Javid today (January 10) announced the government has struck a three month deal with multiple private health care providers to put staff and facilities on standby from today until the end of March to support the NHS if it becomes overwhelmed.
The private sector deal – with Practice Plus Group, Spire Healthcare, Nuffield Health, Circle Health Group, Ramsay Health Care UK, Healthcare Management Trust, One Healthcare, Horder Healthcare, Aspen Healthcare and KIMS Hospital – is on top of orders from Javid for the NHS to create additional capacity. The Guardian reports that NHS hospitals have been told “to find extra beds in gyms and education centres” while “Nightingale hubs are being created in the grounds of some hospitals as part of a move to create up to 4,000 extra beds.”
NHS ‘new super surge capacity’
Javid tweeted on Monday (January 10): “We’re boosting NHS hospitals with new super surge capacity over the next 3 months. It’s thanks to a new deal agreed with the independent sector today.”
The left-leaning Daily Mirror states that 10 private healthcare firms have struck a deal with the government – “for an undisclosed amount of taxpayers cash” – which Javid said “demonstrates the collaboration across our healthcare services to create an additional safeguard that ensures people can continue to get the care they need from our world-leading NHS, whenever they need it.”
A “Whitehall source” told the Telegraph the move is to avoid more restrictions being introduced in England and “to help the NHS get through the Omicron wave” with private healthcare staff and facilities put on standby.
NHS England (NHSE) signed contracts with private hospitals worth more than £2 billion in the first year of the pandemic (2020) yet delivered less than 0.1% of Covid care and took on fewer NHS patients than in 2019, reports the right-wing Express under the headline: “Waste of public money! Fury as private hospitals to be paid millions to help fight Covid”.
The Health Service Journal (HSJ) states that two-thirds of the private health capacity bought by the NHS between June and September 2020 went unused.
‘A huge waste of public money’
Around 25 NHS trusts have declared critical incidents and the army has been deployed to help ambulance services in England’s north west as pressures pile on the health service.
“Decades of underfunding has stretched the NHS to its limit, and this [capacity crisis] is now being used as an excuse to hand out more private contracts by a Tory government ideologically committed to privatisation,” said Cat Hobbs, director of campaign group We Own It.
“Not only does this [deal] open the door to further privatisation of our NHS, it’s also a huge waste of public money,” continued Hobbs.
“By some estimates, in 2020 the NHS paid around £400 million per month for use of the capacity of private hospitals, but two-thirds of this capacity was completely unused because private healthcare facilities rely on contracting NHS doctors in their spare time.
“The Government needs to admit that this approach is failing patients and reinstate the NHS as a fully public service and fund it properly.”
Labour’s Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary blamed Conservative governments for running down the NHS but said his party would not “shirk” to use private health companies to reduce waiting lists in England.