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Private hospital beds could be used to help NHS fight coronavirus crisis

PUBLISHED: 11:57 15 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:04 15 March 2020

A health official prepares to take samples for a coronavirus test. Picture: AP Photo/George Calin

A health official prepares to take samples for a coronavirus test. Picture: AP Photo/George Calin

Facilities at private hospitals in Norfolk could be used to help the NHS combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The NHS is due to discuss an emergency plan with the private health sector this week to help cope with a surge in demand.

The unprecedented partnership comes amid concerns that hospitals will soon be unable to cope with the number of patients suffering from the virus.

The Independent Healthcare Providers' Network, which represents private health firms including Spire, HCA and BMI Hospitals, said 'wide ranging discussions' had already begun with health service officials.

Spire Norwich Hospital. Picture: SpireSpire Norwich Hospital. Picture: Spire

BMI runs Sandringham Hospital which has 24 beds, two operating theatres, a diagnostic imaging department and an out-patients department which includes a minor treatment area.

MORE: 'We are well prepared': Norfolk public health director moves to reassure over coronavirus cases

The Spire Healthcare Norwich hospital, near the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in Colney, has 49 rooms and three operating theatres, including two laminar flow theatres for orthopaedic surgery.

Spire said it has met representatives of the NHS and offered its support to efforts against the coronavirus outbreak.

Undated handout photo of Department of Health advert being launched to combat the spread of coronavirus. Picture: PA PhotoUndated handout photo of Department of Health advert being launched to combat the spread of coronavirus. Picture: PA Photo

It said 'the exact nature, extent and the timing of this support is yet to be determined' and in the meantime it is continuing to offer full services to its patients.

Union leaders have called for private hospital beds to be used rent free, to ease pressure on NHS hospitals.

The GMB launched a petition urging the prime minister to requisition private hospital beds, amid reports the NHS is to spend up to £2.4 million a day on the move.

The BMI Sandringham Hospital, at King's Lynn. Picture: BMI HealthcareThe BMI Sandringham Hospital, at King's Lynn. Picture: BMI Healthcare

Rehana Azam, GMB national officer, said: 'It's time to take back these beds for the NHS, rent free. This is a public health emergency.'

MORE: What are the coronavirus symptoms and should I self-isolate?

West Suffolk MP and health secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS would be stopping activities including elective or non-urgent surgeries as it copes with the coronavirus pandemic

He said the government will turn unused operating theatres into extra wards for coronavirus patients.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) explains NHS plans for coronavirus on the Andrew Marr show. Picture: Jeff Overs/BBC/PAHealth Secretary Matt Hancock (right) explains NHS plans for coronavirus on the Andrew Marr show. Picture: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA

He added: 'What matters is not just the space, it's making sure the equipment and the trained staff are there as well. There is a massive effort going on to make sure that capacity is as big as possible.'

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