Major private hospitals sign new Covid-19 surge NHS deal

Private health groups have struck a three-month deal with NHS England (NHSE) to offer extra emergency support as Omicron cases surge. The aim is to avoid delays in treatment for patients with illnesses such as cancer.

As reported by HealthInvestor UK, the number of patients on waiting list for elective care stands at a record high of roughly six million, and here is a risk that the waiting list will be longer in 2025, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

Announcing the deal today (10 January), the health secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “This agreement 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.”

The new contracts come on top of existing agreements between private hospitals and NHS trusts and will run up until 31 March.

The private hospitals that signed the deal are: 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.

Nightingale hubs are also being created in the grounds of some hospitals as part of the drive to create up to 4,000 ‘super surge’ beds, the NHS said.

Circle Health Group, which has supported the NHS by performing over 40,000 life-saving treatments since the first Covid-19 wave, said in a press release: “At the height of the pandemic, thousands of ‘P1’ and ‘P2’ cancer operations for the most urgent, complex, and aggressive cancers had to be cancelled in the NHS as hospitals ran out of ICU beds and struggled to maintain ‘green’ covid-free units which allow the sickest cancer patients to enter hospital. Circle Health Group’s staff stepped up to perform this complex surgery – usually only undertaken in major NHS teaching hospitals – and saved thousands of NHS patients from the poor outcomes they would have suffered if their treatment was cancelled.”

Paolo Pieri, chief executive of Circle Health Group, added: “We’re enormously proud to have provided urgent, life-saving surgery for over 30,000 NHS cancer patients during the course of the pandemic, and have cared for more than 400,000 NHS patients. We stand ready to support the NHS in its time of need, and we have now reached formal agreement to offer additional support where necessary during the next stage of the pandemic.”

Spire Healthcare Group said: “Under the agreement, Spire Healthcare, together with other independent providers, will continue to relieve pressure on NHS hospitals in England by treating NHS elective patients and providing urgent cancer work. The agreement will allow Spire Healthcare to continue to treat private patients, whilst supporting the NHS.

“If required, subject to meeting agreed criteria, Spire Healthcare will grant NHSE access to 100% of its facilities and teams on a local, regional or national basis in the event of a surge of Covid-19 patients in NHS hospitals in England. If a Spire Healthcare hospital is in surge, Spire Healthcare will receive 100% cost recovery for its services.”

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Back in March 2020, a similar deal costing about £400 million was agreed to help the NHS deal with Covid-19.

Date published: January 10, 2022

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