The three-month agreement, for an undisclosed sum, will see private healthcare staff and facilities put on standby to support the NHS should Covid cause unsustainable levels of hospital admissions or staff absences.
There are no routine figures for how many doctors and nurses from the NHS also work in private hospitals.
In the announcement, NHS England said the patients who can be referred to private firms under the deal include some of those waiting for cancer surgery.
The NHS has also been asked to look at using spare capacity in gyms and education centres to create “super surge” wards on top of their usual surge capacity.
Nightingale hubs are already being created in the grounds of some hospitals as part of a move to find up to 4,000 extra beds.
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