Private hospitals taken over by the NHS in fight against coronavirus at the cost of hundreds of millions of pounds are ‘sinfully empty’ – leaving hundreds of the country’s top doctors ‘bored’ and ‘twiddling their thumbs’
- As the COVID-19 crisis spread, many private hospitals were taken by the NHS
- Health staff across the country could only go off vague estimates for numbers
- It is now claimed some of the country’s top doctors are left with nothing to do
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Private hospitals taken over by the NHS at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to fight the coronavirus pandemic are ‘sinfully empty’, medics have told The Mail on Sunday.
Senior clinicians at private hospitals claim hundreds of the country’s best doctors have been left ‘twiddling their thumbs’ during the outbreak – putting people’s health at risk from other illnesses and postponed operations.
Last month, 8,000 beds in private hospitals across the country were taken under public control. NHS England said 20,000 fully qualified staff in the hospitals, including 700 doctors, were needed to battle Covid-19.
Private hospitals taken over by NHS at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to fight the coronavirus pandemic are ‘sinfully empty’, claim medics
But on Saturday night, one London-based consultant orthopaedic surgeon said: ‘What we are seeing at the moment is a sinful and shocking mass of empty private hospitals and empty beds.
‘Most of them are gathering dust, with a whole load of doctors twiddling their thumbs. And it’s costing the NHS millions.’
The surgeon said only ‘emergency’ and ‘time-critical’ operations were being allowed at his hospital, adding: ‘I have a waiting list of 25 people who need major operations right now. One with severe arthritis is crying out in pain every night, unable to sleep.
‘I was asked, “Is there anything you can do?” I had to say “Nothing”, and advised her to take painkillers.’
A second medic said his hospital was ‘fairly empty and under used’ while another said he was ‘pretty bored’. ‘I am unsure if the hospitals are being used in the most efficient way,’ he admitted.
A fourth doctor said private hospitals in north London were ‘largely empty’ despite repeated offers to help out with patients from overrun NHS wards.
Top ten highest UK daily death tolls so far
At least four private hospitals are currently treating coronavirus patients. But the numbers are likely to be very low as there have only been 15 Covid-19 deaths between them, according to official figures.
A month ago it appeared the NHS might need every ventilator and intensive care bed, with some scientists warning that tens of thousands would be dying every day.
‘It was the right thing to do at the time as we had to look at what was happening in Italy and Spain and react accordingly,’ said one medic.
Another doctor added: ‘Preparing for an epidemic is a very difficult balance. If you get it right, it’s by pure luck.’
However, he warned that more people could end up dying early of illnesses like cancer and heart disease: ‘At what point does the cost of this ‘medical lockdown’ to people’s health outweigh the benefits?’
An NHS spokesman said private hospital beds had been requisitioned to offer a ‘buffer’ capacity to the health service, adding: ‘So it is a mark of success that that has largely not been the case.’
The spokesman said that routine procedures in NHS and private hospitals will be resumed ‘in coming weeks and months’ as anaesthetists and other key staff are released from looking after coronavirus patients as the number of new cases falls.
‘UNDERUSED’ NIGHTINGALE MAY STAY OPEN FOR 18 MONTHS
More patients could soon be treated at the NHS Nightingale Hospital amid frustration from medics that it is being ‘underused’.
The huge 3,600-bed field hospital, which was built in just nine days at London’s ExCel Centre, has admitted only 40 coronavirus patients.
But in a leaked letter, NHS boss Sir David Sloman said the number of intensive care beds in use would be increased to 84 ‘in the next few weeks’, plus 14 beds for patients who are recovering from the Covid-19 virus.
The hospital may remain open for 18 months to ease pressure on NHS hospitals.
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