The NHS has struck a deal with private hospitals to acquire thousands of extra beds, ventilators and medical staff to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
An extra 8,000 hospital beds across England, nearly 1,200 ventilators and almost 20,000 fully qualified staff will be available from next week.
The agreement will see the private sector reallocate almost its entire national hospital capacity to the NHS.
The extra resources will also help the NHS deliver other urgent treatments.
In London, this includes more than 2,000 hospital beds and more than 250 operating theatres and critical beds.
The additional staff includes 10,000 nurses, more than 700 doctors and more than 8,000 other clinical staff, who will be joining the health service to help manage an expected surge in cases, said NHS England.
Chief executive Sir Simon Stevens hailed the deal with the private sector.
He said: “We’re dealing with an unprecedented global health threat and are taking immediate and exceptional action to gear up.
“The NHS is doing everything in its power to expand treatment capacity and is working with partners right across the country to do so.”
Under the terms of the deal, the private sector will be reimbursed at cost, meaning no profit will be made for doing so.
“Open book” accounting and external auditors will verify the public funds being deployed.
David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said: “We have worked hand-in-hand with the NHS for decades and will do whatever it takes to support the NHS in responding to this pandemic.”
He added the independent sector “stands ready” to maintain that support for as long as needed.
The NHS deal comes as a consultant warned that frontline NHS staff risked “cross infecting everybody” because they are not getting the recommended protective equipment.
The face mask, short gloves and apron worn by NHS staff is far short of the World Health Organization recommendations, Dr Lisa Anderson of St George’s Hospital, London, said.
Earlier this week, professional health bodies wrote to 55,000 former doctors and nurses who have left the NHS in the last three years, asking them to rejoin the workforce.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed Saturday’s announcement and praised those “heroes returning to the front line”.
On Tuesday, NHS England announced that its hospitals across the country would be taking a range of actions 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 beds in independent and community hospitals, which this deal largely now delivers.