Private hospitals will now support NHS hospitals through Covid as cases surge and staff absences remain high. 

The three-month agreement was made under an undisclosed sum and will see private healthcare staff and facilities put on standby to support the NHS if Covid creates unsustainable levels of hospital admissions. 

The announcement from NHS England said patients that can be referred to private firms under the deal include those being treated for cancer and who are waiting for cancer surgery. 

Along with the private sector giving support, the NHS has also been asked to look at using spare capacity in gyms, education centres to create "super surge" wards. 

Around the country, Nightingale hubs are already being created on the grounds of hospitals to create up to 4,000 extra beds. 

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “NHS staff continue to go above and beyond to ensure people get the treatment they need this winter and our support for the NHS through this challenging period remains at full throttle.

"This agreement demonstrates the collaboration across our health care services to create an additional safeguard that ensures people can continue to get the care they need from our world-leading NHS"

According to NHS England, more than 470,000 NHS day cases, almost 2.8m surgical procedures and more than 500,000 diagnostic tests have been carried out in the private sector in the last year.