As the UK’s battle with COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to ramp up, the NHS has announced a new major deal to expand hospital capacity to combat the virus.

As part of the deal, more beds, ventilators and thousands of extra healthcare staff will be made urgently available from next week to aid the service. The pact, which is between NHS England and the nation’s independent hospitals, also means that nearly 20,000 fully qualified staff will be joining the NHS response to the pandemic, helping manage the expected surge in cases.

More specifically, in the first move of its kind, the deal will include the provision of 8,000 hospital beds across England, nearly 1200 more ventilators, more than 10,000 nurses, over 700 doctors and over 8,000 other clinical staff.

In London, the current height of the pandemic, it includes over 2000 hospital beds and over 250 operating theatres and critical beds.

“We’re dealing with an unprecedented global health threat and are taking immediate and exceptional action to gear up,” commented NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

“The NHS is doing everything in its power to expand treatment capacity, and is working with partners right across the country to do so. But it is absolutely vital that this is matched by successful and comprehensive adoption of the public measures needed to cut the spread of the virus.

“We all have to play our part to help offset the enormous pressure that our nurses, doctors and other specialists will otherwise face.”

On Tuesday last week, NHS England announced that NHS Hospitals across the country are taking a range of action to prepare, including freeing up 30,000 of the overall 100,000 beds available by postponing non-urgent operations and providing care in the community for those who are fit to be discharged. The NHS is also sourcing up to 10,000 in independent and community hospitals, which this deal largely now delivers.

“I know how hard the NHS have been working to secure extra beds and staffing” added Matt Hancock, health secretary Matt Hancock, before going on to say: “This is great news for the hospitals and staff doing everything they can to combat coronavirus. I want to pay particular tribute to those heroes returning to front line to support their colleagues and help as many patients recover from the virus.”

In addition to the agreement, the independent sector will reallocate practically its entire national hospital capacity en bloc to the NHS. The organisation has confirmed that it will be reimbursed, at cost – meaning no profit will be made for doing so.