Britain's National Health Service (NHS) may be "unable to cope" with a possible combination of seasonal viruses and COVID-19 this winter that may kill at least 60,000 people, a new report has warned.
The survey from the Academy of Medical Sciences suggested that flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) hospital admissions and the death toll could be twice as high as compared to a "normal" year, something that may coincide with a surge in coronavirus infections.
Professor Sir Stephen Holgate, chair of the Expert Advisory Group that conducted the report, mentioned "four main challenges" pertaining to the issue, including an increase in respiratory viruses that could put pressure on the NHS.
"Secondly, we're dealing with a third wave of COVID-19 and multiple outbreaks and the NHS has got to catch up with the backlog that it has accumulated over the last 15 months or so, and that's going to be a real challenge", the professor asserted.
He insisted the third problem is that the NHS is "already under pressure", which is why the healthcare system "is likely not to be able to cope with these winter challenges going forward".
Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic could create "worse physical and mental health within the UK population", according to Holgate.
"Society as a whole will have learned from the last 15 months that it isn't acceptable that (we had) all these respiratory viruses washing around in the winter and nearly closing our National Health Service. If there are things we should do to prevent transmission we should do that. Even if it means wearing masks and respecting each other's space", he pointed out.
The professor called for a change in the way the UK operates as a society, which he claimed may stop "the annual continual pressure on the health service created by all these viruses", and which "just means a change in behaviour".
UK Health Secretary Says COVID Restrictions Will Be Lifted On 19 July Despite 'Risk'
The comments follow Britain's Health Secretary Sajid Javid making it clear in late June that once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted they will not be reimposed, even if the number of cases and deaths begins to rise again.
He said he wanted Step Four - the complete lifting of restrictions scheduled for 19 July to be "irreversible".
This came a few months after former NHS chief David Nicholson, warned of serious implications due to the backlog of medical care caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
"The backlog is truly frightening. We can very easily get to the next election with people waiting over two years. It's easy to do that", Nicolson told The Guardian in April, referring to a drastic rise in the number of those who've waited at least a year for vital operations since the beginning of the pandemic.
Britain has had 5.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started and the death toll has already soared to 128,797, according to John Hopkins University's latest estimates.