Against a backdrop of increasing COVID-19 cases, the NHS is preparing for a "triple whammy" this winter according to an NHS Confederation report. The report states the NHS is facing stress due to:
- The continuing rise in COVID-19 cases.
- A backlog in treatment due to postponements earlier in 2020.
- Reduced capacity, as a direct result of measures put in place to reduce the infection rate.
Ministers have also been urged by NHS bosses to be “honest and realistic” about waiting lists for treatment.
These concerns have been raised despite the Government committing a further £3bn to the NHS for the winter months. According to the BBC, these funds were intended to help hospitals cope with the new infection prevention measures implemented and to fund private treatment for patients who were being treated for routine procedures like knee and hip replacements.
The BBC reports hospitals are still struggling and only performing half of the routine treatments and operations they should be doing.
Records show two million patients have already waited longer than 18 weeks for routine treatments, the highest recorded figure since record-keeping of this measure began in 2007.
Other sectors of hospital care requiring more intensive treatment, such as cancer care, are currently running at approximately three-quarters of their standard capacity.
The NHS Confederation distributed a survey to 250 NHS bosses, the data from which was used to put together their report. According to the feedback from the survey, less than one in 10 bosses said that the current funds allowed them to deliver safe and quality care. Just under nine in 10 bosses said a lack of funding would be a significant barrier to achieving waiting-time targets for everything from mental-health care to cancer treatment and routine operations.
Danny Mortimer, NHS Confederation chief executive, urged the Government, saying that a more sustainable plan had to be established for the NHS to cope. He commented, "no-one can be in any doubt that the road to recovery for the NHS and social-care services will be long."
Dame Donna Kinnair from the Royal College of Nursing has also expressed her concerns about the report. She told the BBC that a "serious shortage" of nursing staff was taking its toll on the NHS and the people whom it employs.