Private hospital beds should be made available to treat people with coronavirus, Labour and the GMB union have demanded.
They say there are around 8,000 beds in at least 570 private sector hospitals in the UK.
The call comes as Labour and the GMB say the NHS is now expected to “deal with a national health emergency despite being under strain from years of privatisation and cuts”.
GMB general secretary Tim Roache said: “The prime minister says this is ‘the worst public health crisis for a generation’ – well he needs to start acting like it.
“It can’t be right that we have plush private hospitals lying empty waiting for the wealthy to fall ill, while people are left in dying in hospitals for the want of a bed.
“Do the right thing and let these unused beds be requisitioned by the NHS to save lives.”
In other developments:
- Low cost airline Jet2 cancels all flights to Spain
- The London Marathon is among a number of sporting events cancelled
- Anyone entering New Zealand will have to self-isolate for 14 days
- US President Donald Trump has declared the outbreak a national emergency
- More than 145,000 cases and almost 5,500 deaths have been declared worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University
- Italy recorded 250 cases in a day, bringing its total to almost 18,000
Supporting GMB’s call, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The government should leave no stone unturned when it comes to supporting our NHS and making sure it is best equipped to protect life throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.
“That’s why we support GMB’s calls to requisition private hospital beds and increase capacity to meet the rising demand.
“As the prime minster said, this is the worst public health crisis for a generation. It would be completely wrong for the government not to call on all the resources possible.”
Meanwhile, a headteachers’ union has called on the government to immediately halt all Ofsted inspections.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is to raise the issue with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson amid a time of “national emergency”.
General secretary Geoff Barton said it was not a time for “business as usual” and, with the exception of establishments where there are specific safeguarding concerns, the government should move to suspend all routine inspections.
In a speech at the end of the ASCL’s annual conference in Birmingham, he said: “This is a time for the inspectorate to show that it understands the extraordinary pressures on schools and colleges and for the government to suspend all inspections during this crisis.
“At this time of national emergency, schools and colleges are devoting all of their time and all of their energies and all of their resources to keeping calm, to carrying on.
“They are preparing contingency plans in the event of closures.
“This is not a time for business as usual. It’s not a time for business as usual for Ofsted.”
Mr Barton added: “We acknowledge that Ofsted has taken a step in the right direction by accepting that the current situation may be a reason for an inspection to be deferred.
“However, it has not gone far enough. A case-by-case basis is not good enough.”
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