HS bosses in London are “profoundly uncomfortable” that non-urgent procedures are still taking place in private hospitals while Covid-19 ravages the capital’s healthcare system, according to a report.
In a letter seen by Health Service Journal, NHS England and senior clinical leaders have asked the medical directors of London’s acute hospital trusts “not to support” their staff who are providing private routine elective care for the next month.
The letter says the NHS is facing “unthinkable” pressure in what is says are “genuinely unprecedented times” as coronavirus rips through the capital.
More than 7,000 patients with Covid-19 were in London hospitals on Saturday, up from 5,511 on January 1.
“In this context, with all but the most urgent elective activity postponed in the NHS in London, it feels profoundly uncomfortable to us that some elective work, that is not time critical, is continuing in the independent sector,” the letter reads.
“We are asking colleagues to think very carefully about the appropriateness of this, and would like colleagues not to support delivery of such work in the independent sector for a period of time, a month from the date of this letter in the first instance, until vaccination and the current lockdown take effect and the pressure on NHS services eases.”
On Friday Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident in London and said the spread of the virus was “out of control. One in 30 Londoners are estimated to have had the disease during the week between Christmas and New Year, rising to one in 16 in Barking and Dagenham.
During the first wave of the pandemic, a national block contract with all of London’s private healthcare providers’ meant that NHS England could use resources as it saw fit.
The agreement ended in August and has been replaced with smaller contracts, allowing non-NHS work to resume, the HSJ reported.
David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, told the HSJ: “Since the end of the block-booked ‘at cost’ national arrangements NHS England has asked independent hospitals to focus on delivering urgent and non-urgent elective care underpinned by private activity.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the NHS once again needs supporting in a much more significant and flexible way. That now requires an urgent reassessment by the NHS centrally of how to give local NHS systems the independent sector support they now need.”