Published: 08:45, 10 January 2022
| Updated: 15:36, 10 January 2022
Maidstone private hospital KIMS has been put on standby to help the NHS as Covid infections rise.
The hospital at Bearsted is one of 10 private healthcare companies across the UK which have agreed to hand over premises and staff to augment emergency Nightingale hospitals in a three-month deal starting today. (Jan10)
Kent health bosses are already building a temporary Nightingale hospital in the car park of the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford in a bid cope with a predicted shortage of up to 900 beds in the next few weeks.
It is understood there are also plans to reopen an unused ward at Sheppey Community Hospital at Minster, recently used as a Covid vaccination centre.
But NHS bosses fear they won't have the staff to run the extra beds as many doctors and nurses are at home self-isolating following an increase in Omicron cases.
The independent sector surge capacity will only be triggered if Covid patients requiring treatment were to threaten the NHS’s ability to provide urgent care.
A spokeswoman for KIMS (Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery) stressed: "We are currently only on standby to support the NHS if required. All patients, both NHS and private who have appointments and/or treatment booked at KIMS Hospital, should continue to attend. If the situation changes, we will contact any patients concerned."
NHS England chief operating officer and Covid incident director Sir David Sloman said: “NHS staff have done an incredible job over the last year recovering elective treatment levels and then keeping non-COVID services going as pressures have built.
“As part of this, millions of patients have already got their tests and treatment quicker thanks to our existing deal with independent providers.
“With the high number of Omicron cases placing even greater pressure on hospitals now and over the coming weeks, this deal, struck under direction from the Secretary of State, means as many people as possible can continue to get the care they need.
“It also places independent health providers on standby to provide further help should hospitals face unsustainable levels of hospitalisations or staff absences.
“Just like the Nightingale hubs being created across the country, we hope never to need their support but it will be there if needed. The public can play their part in helping us to help you getting vaccinated against Covid – it is the best way to protect yourself, your family and your friends.”
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “NHS staff continue to go above and beyond to ensure people get the treatment they need this winter and our support for the NHS through this challenging period remains at full throttle.
“This agreement demonstrates the collaboration across our health care services to create an additional safeguard that ensures people can continue to get the care they need from our world-leading NHS, whenever they need it.
“I encourage everyone to keep doing their bit to look after themselves and their loved ones and most importantly for all those eligible to Get Boosted Now.”
The NHS Covid vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in NHS history, has delivered more than 113 million jabs including 40 million boosters.
At the same time NHS teams across the country have continued to deliver non-Covid care with almost 10 million people starting elective treatment between the start of March and the end of October 2021.
Independent sector capacity has been used extensively throughout the pandemic and currently overall use is at almost 115 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, including over 470,000 day cases, almost 2,800,000 surgical procedures and more than 500,000 diagnostic tests in the last year.
The new deal with these organisations will run until the end of March when local arrangements with those providers will resume.
If NHS Trusts need to trigger the surge element of the new deal, routine services at KIMS will be suspended to make facilities and staff available to the health service.
David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), said: “Independent sector providers have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the NHS throughout the pandemic, playing a key role in enabling vital NHS care including cancer and cardiology treatment to continue, whilst also maintaining services for private patients.
"The arrangements being announced today, in response to a call by government and the NHS for further independent sector support during the Omicron wave of Covid-19, will help to bolster planned NHS care including cancer treatment this winter whilst ensuring that independent sector providers can continue to treat private patients.
“The arrangements will also provide the NHS with additional targeted support in the event that local NHS pressures are deemed as unsustainable.”
The other nine companies signed up are the Practice Plus Group, Spire Healthcare, Nuffield Health, Circle Health Group, Ramsay Health Care UK, Healthcare Management Trust, One Healthcare, Horder Healthcare and Aspen Healthcare.