NHS England and senior clinical leaders in London have written a joint letter to all the medical directors of the capital’s acute hospital trusts to ask them “not to support” their staff who are performing non-urgent work in the private sector for the next month.
During December and January the capital has seen a the demand for beds for coronavirus patients rocket, with Covid bed occupancy rising from around 1,700 at the start of December to more than 7,000 on 9 January.
The letter says: “We are in genuinely unprecedented times and the second wave of covid-19 is putting pressures on the service that only a year ago would have been unthinkable.
“In this context, with all but the most urgent elective activity postponed in the NHS in London, it feels profoundly uncomfortable to us that some elective work, that is not time critical, is continuing in the independent sector.
“We are asking colleagues to think very carefully about the appropriateness of this, and would like colleagues not to support delivery of such work in the independent sector for a period of time, a month from the date of this letter in the first instance, until vaccination and the current lockdown take effect and the pressure on NHS services eases.”
The letter is signed by: NHS England’s regional medical director Vin Diwakar, the medical directors of the Royal Free London Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare Trust and Barts Health Trust, and seven other of the capital’s leading clinicians.
At the start of the pandemic, all private health providers in London were on a national block contract with NHSE, which meant all their resources could be used to support the NHS. This arrangement stopped in August in London, replaced by more ad hoc, spot contracts which meant private firms could restart non-NHS work.
The Health Service Journal reported earlier this month, that NHS England London was asking the private sector to provide more surgery for around 500 urgent cancer patients in London.