Spire Healthcare Group PLC (LON:SPI) said the NHS is currently block-buying capacity in private hospitals to deal with expected coronavirus patients and has called for hospitals trusts to use private hospitals for as many elective operations as possible before restrictions on movement kick in.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, has clarified the indications of how the state medical system is going to increase capacity to deal with the epidemic, writing a letter to the bosses of all NHS trusts, foundation trusts, GPs and providers of community health services.
Before the NHS postpone all non-urgent elective operations from 15 April, expected to be for at least three months, all trusts should “use all available capacity for elective operations including the independent sector, before Covid constraints curtail such work”.
The letter also says the NHS is in the process of “block-buying capacity” in private hospitals around the country, a process that should be completed within a fortnight.
“Their staff and facilities will then be flexibly available to you for urgent surgery, as well as for repurposing their beds, operating theatres and recovery facilities to provide respiratory support for Covid-19 patients,” Stevens said.
Spire, which owns 39 hospitals and eight clinics across England, Wales and Scotland, said it is continuing to provide private care alongside planned NHS work in its hospitals “until the point when focus switches to supporting the government's efforts in combatting this disease”.
Spire said it “remains fully committed” to using the resources at its disposal to help the NHS, having said last week that it was offering its support.
The company has been targeting private payors in recent years, focusing less on winning outsourcing contracts from the NHS after it saw public healthcare business volumes decline.
It has also been embroiled in scandals around rogue surgeons Ian Paterson and Habib Rahman.
Analysts at broker Liberum said it was “hard to say how this will impact Spire at the moment” but it is “likely that Spire will be heavily utilised one way or the other and hence we would not expect any major near term negatives from a balance sheet perspective while longer term it should benefit from such cooperation”.