College welcomes NHS-private sector deal

News of an extension of the NHS deal with independent providers until March 2021 has been welcomed by the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Prof Neil Mortensen

Its ‘delighted’ president, Prof Neil Mortensen, responded: ‘It will be many months before every staff member and every patient has been vaccinated against Covid, so in the meantime we need to continue to keep surgical patients safe and separate. 

‘There is not enough space in the NHS estate to do that, so the independent sector’s capacity is critical.’

He added: ‘The deal means that more surgery can go ahead in a safe environment. We also expect to see surgical trainees given training opportunities in the independent sector. They have missed out on so much training time this year, the new arrangement must support our future medical workforce to develop.’

Current contracts with independent hospitals expire at the end of December but will be replaced by new national contracts to cover January-March 2021. These allow local NHS organisations to buy a range of services for their patients from independent providers.

Over two million consultations, tests, operations and chemotherapy sessions have been carried out for NHS patients by independent hospitals since March 2020 when the agreement began.

NHS use of the independent hospitals’ resources has been on an at-cost basis, with no profit being made by the independent providers from NHS work ‘to ensure maximum value for taxpayers’. 

David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), said: ‘Independent providers remain committed to supporting the NHS over winter and beyond to treat as many NHS patients as possible while also treating growing numbers of private patients across the country.’

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

IHPN said contracts with independent hospitals would be replaced by new national contracts with 14 providers and by a new framework of nationally consistent terms and prices.