NHS strikes major deal to expand hospital capacity to battle coronavirus

More beds, ventilators and thousands of extra healthcare staff will be made urgently available from next week to aid the NHS fight against coronavirus, thanks to a major deal agreed between NHS England and the nation’s independent hospitals.

Nearly 20,000 fully qualified staff will be joining the NHS response to the pandemic, helping manage the expected surge in cases.

The extra resources now secured by the health service will not only be available to treat coronavirus patients, but will also help the NHS deliver other urgent operations and cancer treatments.

The deal – the first of its kind ever – includes the provision of 8,000 hospital beds across England, nearly 1200 more ventilators, more than 10,000 nurses, over 700 doctors and over 8,000 other clinical staff.

In London it includes over 2000 hospital beds, and over 250 operating theatres and critical beds.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “We’re dealing with an unprecedented global health threat and are taking immediate and exceptional action to gear up. The NHS is doing everything in its power to expand treatment capacity, and is working with partners right across the country to do so. But it is absolutely vital that this is matched by successful and comprehensive adoption of the public measures needed to cut the spread of the virus. We all have to play our part to help offset the enormous pressure that our nurses, doctors and other specialists will otherwise face.”

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary said: “I know how hard the NHS have been working to secure extra beds and staffing.

“This is great news for the hospitals and staff doing everything they can to combat Coronavirus. I want to pay particular tribute to those heroes returning to front line to support their colleagues and help as many patients recover from the virus.”

On Tuesday NHS England announced that NHS Hospitals across the country are taking a range of action to prepare, including freeing up 30,000 of the overall 100,000 beds available by postponing non-urgent operations and providing care in the community for those who are fit to be discharged. The NHS is also sourcing up to 10,000 in independent and community hospitals, which this deal largely now delivers.

Under the agreement, the independent sector will reallocate practically its entire national hospital capacity en bloc to the NHS. It will be reimbursed, at cost – meaning no profit will be made for doing so. “Open book” accounting and external auditors will verify the public funds being deployed.

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.”

Earlier this week, professional health bodies also wrote to 55,000 former doctors and nurses who have left the NHS in the last three years for them to re-join the workforce.

Independent sector staff supporting the NHS are defined as key workers by the Government. 

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