• Unprecedented deal sees NHS secure 8,000 beds, 1,200 more ventilators and 20,000 clinical staff
  • Private sector said it was providing facilities and staff at cost price
  • Block booking includes all “but tiny fraction” of private capacity

NHS England has block booked almost the entirety of the private hospital sector’s services, facilities and nearly 20,000 clinical staff for the foreseeable future to help cope with the surge of covid-19 patients under an unprecedented deal.

The emergency agreement, announced this afternoon and only for the NHS in England, adds around 8,000 hospital beds, nearly 1,200 more ventilators, more than 10,000 nurses, 700 doctors and 8,000 other clinical staff.

Private sector providers said all facilities would be provided at cost price under the deal. The NHS said it would continue to fund the deal as long as it was needed.

NHSE said the extra capacity and resource “will not only be available to treat coronavirus patients, but will also help the NHS deliver other urgent operations and cancer treatments”.

An NHSE statement added: “The deal – the first of its kind ever – includes… over 2,000 hospital beds, and over 250 operating theatres and critical beds [in London].”

The deal was brokered between NHSE and the private hospitals, via the Independent Healthcare Provider Network.

IHPN chief executive David Hare told HSJ every provider, including Care UK, Health Care, Spire Healthcare and the other major players, had signed up to the deal.

He said all capacity except for a “tiny fraction required for clinical reasons, such as long-term neurology patients who it would not be safe to discharge, and urgent oncology patients” had been block booked by the NHS.

Mr Hare said it was not possible to disclose a value for the deal, because it was not yet known how long the arrangement would be in place, or what the NHS would use. But he said all providers had agreed to a fully transparent approach and to provide services at cost price.

He added: “This significant additional capacity across the country will be a major boost to the NHS’ 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.”

The move follows NHSE announcing a drive to free up around 30,000 of the service’s overall 98,000 acute and general beds by a range of measures including postponing non-urgent operations and speeding up discharges.

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 and social care 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.”