The NHS Confederation has pleaded for a ‘Plan B plus’ from the government to introduce measures, such as mandatory face coverings, as covid rates soar.
It’s feared that, without the reintroduction of certain measures, the NHS could become overwhelmed this winter.
Hospitals are seeing a worrying increase in coronavirus cases in its hospitals and The NHS Confederation is warning that the extent of this could increase over the winter months ahead.
Last month, the government set out its COVID-19 winter strategy, which focused on building the population’s defenses through vaccinations and other pharmaceutical interventions, as well as test, trace and isolate measures, and public health messaging.
Within that, a ‘Plan B’ would be enacted if pressures on the NHS were deemed to be at risk of becoming unsustainable. Additional measures could include clear communications to the public that the level of risk has increased, introducing certificates for people’s COVID-19 vaccine status, and legally mandating people to wear face coverings in certain settings, in addition to considering asking people to work from home if they can.
Many of these measures, particularly around mask-wearing and COVID-19 certification, are already common in parts of Europe where the prevalence of the disease is lower. The membership body is calling for these actions to be introduced sooner rather than later so that if cases of coronavirus still rise to worrying levels, the government can then introduce tougher measures, if needed.
The NHS Confederation believes that the government should introduce a ‘Plan B plus’.
This could include:
- Getting vaccinated, including booster shots when invited.
- Turning up for scheduled healthcare appointments on time.
- Using frontline services responsibly, such as by only calling 999 in emergency situations and accepting appointments with primary care professionals other than GPs, such as practice nurses and community pharmacists, as well as remotely from both primary and secondary care, if offered and suitable
- Volunteering to support the NHS and joining or returning to the workforce, if eligible.
Chief executive of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor said: “The NHS has shown that it has been there for its patients throughout the pandemic and is working hard to tackle the increased demand for its services, with 1.1 million procedures and 25.5 million GP appointments delivered in August.
“The NHS is preparing for what could be the most challenging winter on record and it will do everything it can to make sure its services are not disrupted but these outside pressures are not solely within its gift to influence.
“As cases of coronavirus continue to climb, alongside other demands on the health service and pressure on staff capacity in both the NHS and social care, leaders are worried about what could be around the corner.
“There is a crucial opportunity for the public to pull together and show extra support for the NHS by behaving in ways that will keep themselves and others safe and also safeguard stretched frontline services for those most in need.
“It is time for the Government to enact Plan B of its strategy without delay because without preemptive action, we risk stumbling into a winter crisis.
“Also, health leaders need to understand what a ‘Plan C’ would entail if these measures are insufficient.
“The government should not wait for COVID infections to rocket and for NHS pressures to be sky high before the panic alarm is sounded.
“Additional investment has been given to the NHS to support its recovery and leaders are committed to putting that to best use as rightly, the public expects a return on its investment but if the government fails to get a grip on the rising cases of coronavirus and other illness, this could be put at risk.”