Amid warnings by UK health experts that a second wave of COVID-19 might return in the winter, the government is being urged to continue financing private care and the Nightingale hospitals, largely unused during the pandemic, to avoid overwhelming the National Health Service (NHS), reports The Times.
Experts insist there is a need to continue funding to ensure there is capacity to deal with any second peak of the respiratory virus. Chris Hopson,
the chief executive of NHS Providers, representing trusts, was quoted as saying:
“Trusts will need to keep capacity to deal with a second surge, treat Covid patients and restore normal services such as routine operations.”
Extra funding was funnelled into private sector medical support and Nightingale hospitals were set up at the start of the coronavirus epidemic to ensure NHS services would be able to deal with the onslaught of cases, said Hopson, adding:
“The last thing we should do now is start dismantling our defences, re-opening the risk of the health service being overwhelmed.”
The expert explained that trusts had been conducting forward planning throughout the past month to accommodate a scenario where a potential second surge of the coronavirus were to coincide with the winter months, typically a challenging time for the NHS.
“Maintaining the Nightingale hospitals and the private sector for the rest of the year is vital,” insisted Hopson.
The warning comes as earlier, it was reported by The Guardian that the Treasury was blocking requests from the UK Department of Health and Social Care to sign off on a deal worth £5 billion-per-year to manage the backlog by allowing NHS patients to be treated at private hospitals for regular procedures.
Currently, private hospitals receive approximately £400 million a month to treat patients for procedures that were suspended at NHS hospitals during the pandemic.
With many discharged COVID-19 patients reportedly requiring additional care for various virus-related issues, including mental healthcare, the NHS Providers insists that urgent decisions be made on boosting funding for community and mental health services.
The warnings from health experts come as a poll carried out by the British Medical Association among 7,500 of its members who responded showed that 19 percent were “not at all confident” regarding their ability to cope with a resurgence of the pandemic.
Some 30 per cent were “not very confident”, while another 44 percent confessed they were struggling with such issues as depression, anxiety, stress or burnout related to their work. “It’s clear that the NHS is in crisis and doctors are fearful and exhausted,” Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association (BMA) chairman, was quoted as saying.
On 19 June the UK’s coronavirus alert level was reduced to 3 for the first time since the onslaught of the pandemic.
Previously, it was at level number 4 - meaning the transmission rate was considered to be “high or rising exponentially”.
The move signifies that while the virus is considered to be “in general circulation”, it allows for “gradual relaxation of restrictions.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is expected to announce a range of measures to ease restrictions on hospitality venues and services, such as hotels, pubs, restaurants and hairdressers, from the start of July.