According to the Financial Times (16 June) the government is considering a longer term deal with private hospitals.
In late March, as the first wave of Covid 19 was on the rise, the government worried that health resources in the UK would be overwhelmed, as they had been in Italy. The government made a deal with private hospitals — a rolling deal that can be terminated.
The deal gives the NHS access to the facilities and staff of private hospitals. The government pays all overheads, including lending commitments and rent, for the private hospitals at an estimated cost of £100-120m per week. Without that intervention the private hospital businesses would have been in crisis, and might have shut down, with lack of demand during and after lockdown.
The facilities “booked” through the deal have been largely unused so far. NHS hospitals have reorganized themselves so that Intensive Treatment Unit capacity has increased. Patients are now reluctant to come to hospital. Many hospital beds remain empty.
A huge backlog of routine treatments has been put on hold in the pandemic. It may affect up to 10m patients by December. This includes elective surgery. Hospitals are restarting those lists, but with restrictions. Part of my hospital, for example, is separated from the rest (different exits, staff etc.) so that carefully screened patients can have minor elective surgery. ome elective surgery is now taking place in private hospitals. It will be limited by the fact that many private hospitals have no Intensive Treatment Unit facilities.
A longer-term deal, maybe two years, would, so the Financial Times expects, lead to permanently increased funding for the private sector from the NHS. It may lead to decreased funding for NHS hospitals, if contracts with private health companies are prioritised.
We have argued for the requisitioning of private healthcare. The government should take the facilities over, wholesale. It should not be subsidising private companies that would not have survived without NHS funding.
Spain nationalised all its private hospitals ( though temporarily). The UK government looks like choosing instead to use taxpayers’ money to make the rich richer.