Britain's NHS secures private hospital capacity 'en bloc' to fight coronavirus

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) will have more ventilators and thousands of extra beds and healthcare staff on hand from next week to fight coronavirus after it struck a deal with the independent hospital sector.

NHS England said on Saturday that nearly 20,000 fully qualified staff from the private sector will be joining the health service’s response to the pandemic, helping manage an expected surge in cases.

So far, 177 patients have died in the United Kingdom after testing positive for coronavirus.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered pubs, restaurants, theaters, cinemas and gyms to shut their doors in a bid to slow down the accelerating spread of the virus.

“Under the agreement, the independent sector will reallocate practically its entire national hospital capacity en bloc to the NHS,” said health minister Matt Hancock. “It will be reimbursed, at cost, meaning no profit will be made for doing so.”

The deal includes the provision of 8,000 hospital beds across England, nearly 1,200 more ventilators, more than 10,000 nurses, over 700 doctors and more than 8,000 other clinical staff.

In London, it includes more than 2,000 hospital beds and over 250 operating theaters and critical beds.

“We’re dealing with an unprecedented global health threat and are taking immediate and exceptional action to gear up,” said NHS chief executive Simon Stevens.

On Tuesday, NHS England said NHS hospitals across the country were taking a range of additional actions to prepare for the spread of the virus, including freeing up 30,000 of the overall 100,000 beds available by postponing non-urgent operations and providing care in the community for those who are fit to be discharged.

It also said it was sourcing up to 10,000 beds in independent and community hospitals, which Saturday’s deal largely delivers.

The extra resources secured by the NHS will not only be available to treat coronavirus patients, but will also help the health service deliver other urgent operations and cancer treatments.

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