Call for clarity on funding pledge

by Keith Cooper

Doctors and other health leaders have demanded a clear statement on how £3bn of funding to ease winter pressures will be spent as the service faces its most challenging period yet.

Location: UK
Published: Friday 17 July 2020
Person on gurney rushed through A&E

The funding announcement followed a stark prediction by the Academy of Medical Sciences this week of up to around 120,000 deaths in hospitals between September and June 2021. This estimate come in its report, Preparing for a challenging winter 2020/21, which was requested by the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

‘The prime minister is clear that now is not the time for complacency, and we must make sure our NHS is battle ready for winter,’ a spokesperson for Downing Street told the BBC.

Backlog answer

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said it was vital to understand how the money will used and whether it would provide sufficient resources to tackle a second wave and the huge backlog built up. Millions of operations, treatments, tests, and appointments were cancelled or postponed to free up resources for the first wave of COVID-19 cases, BMA research recently indicated.

‘We need a coherent strategy of how this backlog will be managed, as well as drawing on the lessons learned from the first peak,’ Dr Nagpaul said. ‘While shoring up physical capacity is one aspect, there needs to be staff to keep services – both COVID and non-COVID – running, given that doctors and healthcare staff are exhausted and burnt out from dealing with the unprecedented demands of the last few months.’

Unprecedented era

NHS providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said hospitals faced the ‘most challenging’ winter period in the NHS’s history.  ‘Every year trusts stress the need to be able to plan as early as possible and certainty about this funding will obviously help,’ she added.

‘Trusts are facing a triple whammy of pressures: winter itself, including the prospect of flu, the ongoing pandemic and possible second surge, and trying to recover their position and restart “usual service”. They are doing all of this in new and very challenging circumstances.’

Dr Nagpaul called on the Government to make transparent its plans to tackle winter pressures.

‘It must make prevention a priority and take every necessary step to try and avoid a national second spike all together,’ he added. ‘This means providing unambiguous messages to the public and ensuring that they adhere to physical distancing rules and also wear face coverings in all situations where they cannot – not just in shops and on public transport.’