Coronavirus: NHS to buy up private hospital beds as COVID-19 spreads in UK

The NHS is to buy up beds in private hospitals to boost capacity as the coronavirus spreads in the UK.

Manufacturing firms are also being tasked with ramping up production of ventilators and other medical equipment to prepare for a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask companies to join a “national effort” to tackle the virus, which is confirmed to have infected 1,140 people in the UK, 21 of whom have died.

Negotiations are taking place with private health firms about access to their hospital beds.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “The public are right to be proud of the NHS, but the scale of the challenge we face means we can’t do this alone.

“We will be providing further operational instructions to all hospitals to help them prepare. But we need every part of society and every industry to ask what they can do to help the effort.”

In a conference call on Monday, Mr Johnson will tell businesses that the government will buy up their stocks of ventilators once they have been produced.

Ventilators are an essential part of treating those who are admitted to hospital in the most severe cases of COVID-19, when a sticky mucus fills patients’ lungs preventing them from breathing.

It follows government efforts to increase the supply of ventilators to the NHS from around the world, although the virus is impacting health services globally with more than 155,000 confirmed cases.

Jeremy Corbyn has asked the PM to agree to provide emergency support for those affected by the coronavirus, demanding a financial package which would include higher statutory sick pay, as well as rent deferrals and so-called “mortgage holidays”.

In a letter to Mr Johnson, the Labour leader has called for financial protections “for all, including insecure, low paid and self-employed workers, during self-isolation and illness”.

He said that rent deferrals and mortgage holidays were necessary “so that landlords cannot evict tenants and mortgage companies cannot take action against homeowners”.

The PM has warned that the coronavirus outbreak is “the worst public health crisis in a generation” and said “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time”.

He said measures which would cause “severe disruption across our country for many months” would be rolled out, but it was vital they were not introduced too early.

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