Coronavirus: Private health sector to work with NHS to provide extra capacity through crisis

The private healthcare sector will work with the NHS to provide extra capacity amid the coronavirus crisis, bringing thousands of resources to the fight against Covid-19.

Under a freshly signed agreement, the independent sector will reallocate almost its entire national hospital capacity to the NHS and will be reimbursed at cost.

Thousands more beds, ventilators and extra healthcare staff will be available from next week to aid the fight against coronavirus thanks to the deal between NHS England and independent hospitals.

The extra resources, including nearly 20,000 staff, will also help the NHS deliver other urgent operations and cancer treatments.

The deal - the first of its kind - includes the provision of 8,000 hospital beds across England, nearly 1,200 more ventilators, more than 10,000 nurses, over 700 doctors and over 8,000 other clinical staff.

The move comes as health services deals with "unprecedented demand" and Britons are told to stay in their homes to stop the spread of the virus.

A sign advising people about how to deal with coronavirus. Credit: PA

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens hailed the deal with the private sector, saying: "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."

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary added: "This is great news for the hospitals and staff doing everything they can to combat coronavirus."

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David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said the deal would be a "major boost to the NHS's efforts".

He said: "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."

It comes the day after the government announced unprecedented action to calm the economy through the crisis.

On Friday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a massive package of support to help employers and employees survive the coronavirus shutdown.

Following the Prime Minister's announcement that pubs, bars, cafes and other public venues must shut from midnight on Friday, Mr Sunak announced billions of pounds would be used to prevent businesses going under, and to prop up salaries of workers who have suddenly become unable to work.