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NHS plea for private help as covid forces cancer surgery cancellations

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NHS leaders are holding fresh talks with private healthcare groups to try to secure surgery for urgent cancer patients in London, as the covid-19 second wave causes hospitals in the capital to make widespread cancellations, HSJ understands.

In recent weeks, pivotal independent sector providers have declined to do the procedures for the payments on offer.

In the spring covid peak, the NHS block-booked private capacity in London, but now only small, spot contracts are in place for this work. Under the previous deal, rules meant low-priority private patients could not be treated ahead of NHS patients who needed surgery urgently.

But now providers can prioritise their private patients as they see fit. HSJ understands NHS England, under pressure from the Treasury, was not willing to pay the prices asked by the three private providers.

As London NHS hospitals continue to fill with covid patients, particularly in critical care, they are able to do few cancer procedures beyond the most urgent category, P1, and are suspending many procedures in the lower categories, including P2, sources said. P2 is defined as patients who need treatment within four weeks.

One senior clinical manager in the city told HSJ on Monday: “Cancellations [are] rife. We have stopped almost all operating in our elective hub apart from P1 [patients assessed as needing surgery within three days].

“The independent sector has not opened up capacity and lifestyle operations [are] still planned [in private hospitals].”

Read full story (paywalled) 

Source: HSJ, 5 January 2021

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