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COVID-19 – Impact on private sector healthcare

The following information was last validated on 15 May 2020.

On 21 March, the government announced that the NHS came to an agreement with private hospitals in England to acquire their facilities and clinical capacity in preparation for the coronavirus outbreak in the coming weeks and months.

The agreement has seen the private sector reallocate almost its entire national hospital capacity to the NHS, releasing an extra 8,000 beds across England, almost 1,200 ventilators and 20,000 fully qualified staff. All capacity except for that required for clinical reasons, such as long-term neurology patients who it would not be safe to discharge, cardiac patients and urgent oncology patients has been block booked by the NHS.

The agreement commenced on 30 March although non-urgent elective surgery for those aged 70 and over plus vulnerable patients was suspended immediately. The deal is initially for at least three and a half months and then on a rolling contract terminable by the NHS on one month’s notice.

What does this mean for my private medical scheme?

The majority of private treatments are elective and, as expected, are suspended. Most of the consultants and anaesthetists that practice privately are working for the NHS full time. Private hospital beds outside London are not widely used as the NHS and Nightingale Hospitals have been largely able to cope with the influx of patients suffering with Covid-19.

Non-hospital based treatment, such as consultations and therapies are likely to continue where possible and where practitioners are available, although for public health reasons providers are likely to look to deliver services remotely over the telephone or via video conference. Most insurers offer musculo-skeletal treatment and mental health pathways without the need for a referral from a family doctor. These remain available through remote video conferencing although face to face treatment is likely to be curtailed. Please check the insurer pages for the latest information on your insurer.

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