HOSPITALS will be able to use spare capacity in the private sector under a new deal struck with the NHS this week.

The three-month agreement will see private healthcare staff and facilities put on standby to support the NHS should hospital admissions or staff absences due to Covid threaten the provision of urgent care.

Patients that can be referred include some of those waiting for cancer surgery.

A spokesperson for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said the new national deal provides some capacity as a contingency, and while they aren't using it at the moment, it is being kept under review.

However, they added that in the North East there is "much more limited private sector healthcare capacity" than in other parts of the country, such as London or the South East.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: "This agreement demonstrates the collaboration across our healthcare services to create an additional safeguard that ensures people can continue to get the care they need from our world-leading NHS, whenever they need it."

Nightingale hubs are already being created in the grounds of some hospitals as part of a move to create up to 4,000 extra beds.