It is untrue, unfair and potentially dangerous to call the NHS a ‘COVID-only service’

12 August 2020

NHS Providers has issued a strongly worded riposte to recent suggestions that the health service during the pandemic became a ’COVID-only service’.

In a new blog, chief executive Chris Hopson highlights how despite facing its biggest ever challenge, the NHS maintained most critical services alongside treating patients with COVID-19.

Recent claims of all non-COVID patient care coming to a grinding halt have left frontline NHS trust leaders frustrated and disappointed as it is untrue, unfair and potentially dangerous.

Non-urgent services were only officially paused for two weeks during April at the peak of the pandemic. Even at the height of coronavirus, for every one COVID-19 patient in hospital, there were two non-COVID inpatients being treated for other conditions. More than three million urgent tests, checks and treatments were provided over the pandemic, 3.6 million people treated in A&E and around 1,800 babies a day were delivered.

Mental health trusts had more contact than ever with children and young people in April 2020 – 282,000 which is the highest monthly figure on record. Community providers supported the safe discharge of medically fit patients to create 33,000 hospital beds for COVID patients, alongside their existing casework. Ambulance services continued to treat road traffic accident and heart attack victims, taking more than 1.7 million calls between April 1 and June 30.

Describing the scale of what NHS trusts have delivered Chris Hopson said:

“Of course the NHS had to prioritise patients on the basis of clinical need to cope with the first surge of COVID-19 cases. This did mean that some treatments were delayed and trust leaders do not underestimate the potential impact of this.

To describe the service provided as COVID only is unfair and untrue as it ignores the efforts of hundreds of thousands of frontline staff who went to the most extraordinary lengths to keep the NHS open for ordinary business whilst coping with the worst global pandemic in a century.

Chris Hopson    Chief Executive

“To describe the service provided as COVID only is unfair and untrue as it ignores the efforts of hundreds of thousands of frontline staff who went to the most extraordinary lengths to keep the NHS open for ordinary business whilst coping with the worst global pandemic in a century. Dismissing their work, by implying that it didn’t exist, is just plain wrong.

“But what is most worrying is the implication that unless you have COVID you won’t get treatment. This means that some patients may not feel able to seek treatment for the most serious conditions as they may believe the NHS is not able to care for them. This is dangerous and it’s vital that patients do seek help and advice when they need it.”

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