In the middle of March 2020, it was clear that the NHS would not have the capacity to deal with the increased demands of the Covid-19 epidemic. This lack of spare capacity is clear evidence of continuing government failure to invest in the NHS to provide the required flexibility to meet unplanned needs. As a necessary but panic measure to deal with the threat of COVID 19, Johnson’s Government struck a deal with the private hospital sector to rent beds from them at a cost of £2,400,000 per day.
By the end of June, after approximately one hundred days this will already have cost the NHS a quarter of a billion pounds. It is clear that the Government can find funds when they are needed and that their default position is to throw money at the private sector despite the shocking record of commercial organisations in providing health and social care.
This is a disgrace which has thrown a lifeline to the private health providers who would have not been able to operate normally during the pandemic and would have lost huge quantities of money but for this.
NHS hospitals have largely coped with the first wave of the COVID 19 pandemic by ceasing all other activity and by the public co-operating with a country-wide lockdown. The extra capacity has been mostly unused. Effectively the private hospitals have received tens of millions of pounds of public money, and rising, to do nothing.
As the NHS begins to deal with the huge backlog of non COVID care these private hospitals must be obliged to make their facilities available to help with the catch up in care and they must do so taking into account the windfall they have obtained to date.
There must be no profiteering from Covid-19.
- Private hospitals must provide value for the money already paid to them and make their facilities available to help clear the backlog of NHS care for no extra charge.
- There must be full scrutiny and open book accounting to ensure that taxpayers can see that they are getting value for money.
- Commercial organisations must not be permitted to cherry pick their way to bigger profits at a time of great national emergency.
Doctors in Unite statement 28/06/20