Two-thirds of the private sector capacity block-purchased by the NHS at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds, went unused over the summer, according to HSJ, quoting unnamed sources.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHS booked block contracts for almost all the private hospital capacity in England, estimated to have cost up to £400 million a month.

These contracts enabled staff and equipment to be borrowed by NHS hospitals to cater for anticipated demand from Covid-19 patients, with private hospitals on standby in case NHS facilities were overwhelmed.

From June, the NHS sought to use the private hospitals for large amounts of planned non-Covid treatments, but this was a failure due to poor communication, confusion about how to use the contracted capacity, and NHS trusts being slow to restart elective programmes after the first Conid-19 peak.

In a statement the Independent Healthcare Provider Network said: “Where utilisation by the local NHS has been poor, independent sector providers have proactively raised that with those systems and where needed up through the regional and national NHS England teams.”

It said private providers hit or exceeded the NHS’s “vast majority of activity expectations”.

The bulk of the contracts were given to Spire Healthcare and Circle Health.

Date published: December 1, 2020

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