NHS say health service now overwhelmed to “height of pandemic” levels

NHS overwhelmed, NHS covid
© Alessandro Melis

NHS Providers have written a letter, explaining that health service resources are now as overwhelmed as they were in January, 2021 – with the situation predicted to get worse before it gets better

NHS Providers, speaking for all NHS hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services in England, sent the letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson today (27 July) – alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

The letter explains that the NHS is currently facing overwhelming pressure, similar to January, 2021. In the first month of the year, the NHS faced an immense wave of COVID hospitalisations and deaths. At one point in January, over 1,000 people were dying everyday. The NHS faced a backlog in other services, with cancer care being delayed by the influx.

Now, the UK is in a cautious fall in case levels after the 19 July ‘unlockdown’. Despite this, there are now 4,401 COVID hospitalisations (as of 23 July), up from 1,998 on 6 July.

What current pressures are explained in the letter?

  • Going at full speed to recover care backlogs across hospital, mental health and
    community services.
  • Very high, often record, levels of demand for urgent and emergency care including in
    ambulance services.
  • Growing numbers of COVID-19 hospital admissions alongside a rapid growth in mental
    health and long COVID presentations.
  • Significant loss of capacity due to the need to protect patients and staff from
    nosocomial infection.
  • A large number of staff self-isolating as the number of COVID-19 community infections
  • The service now entering peak summer leave, with significant amounts of extra leave
    that was postponed to enable the NHS to cope with previous waves of COVID-19 now,
    being taken.

Experts in the health service warn that despite vaccination rates, the NHS is in bad shape. They cite a “tired and overstretched” workforce, in addition to the fact that the NHS was weak before COVID-19 came to the UK.

The letter describes this weakness as “a result of a decade of the longest and deepest funding squeeze in NHS history.”

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