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Surge deal – good for business, bad for the NHS?

Health secretary Sajid Javid’s decision last week to force through another ‘surge capacity’ deal with independent providers, to protect the health service from being overwhelmed by the Omicron variant, has been questioned by many in the sector – not least by NHS England’s own chief executive – and suggests few, if any lessons have been learned from similar deals waved through by Javid’s predecessor earlier in the pandemic.

Although NHSE CEO Amanda Pritchard eventually signed off on the three-month contract, having covered her back by requesting ‘ministerial direction’ on the matter, she reportedly told Javid that it would leave the health service “exposed financially” and that it represented “a material risk that the NHS pays for activity that is not performed”, adding “On a per bed basis this is significantly more expensive than the equivalent costs of an NHS site with much less certainty on the potential staffed capacity.”

Under the terms of the new deal – which allows the independents to carry on treating private patients and choose which cases to take on – the private sector will receive at least £225m between now and 31 March simply to reserve elective capacity, despite only agreeing to staff just half of the 5,600 beds being made available.

Full story in The Lowdown, 21 January 2022

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