NHS England is trying to negotiate the use of beds to cope with a waiting list crisis – it’s time the private sector stepped up

Back in that long-ago first wave of Covid-19, there really was an “all in this together” mood. People clapped on a Thursday and children painted rainbows; public trust that the government would do its best was still riding high. In those innocent days before Dominic Cummings’ eyesight test, there was goodwill towards the government. One or two early actions struck exactly the right public note.

Especially this one: the NHS took over all the capacity of private hospitals, its 8,000 beds, 680 operating theatres and 20,000 staff, to carry out non-Covid emergency treatments for cancer, stroke and heart patients. In a gesture of wartime necessity, the well-off could not commandeer special treatment.

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