NHS Providers on coronavirus (24.03.20)

24 March 2020

The NHS has prepared as never before for an explosion in demand

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:

"The NHS has never done so much to prepare in such a short space of time.

"In our daily dialogue with trust chief executives we hear about the amount of work that is going on to reconfigure services, reallocate staff, discharge medically fit patients, expand critical care capacity, postpone elected surgery, add private sector hospitals, expand ventilation support, and bring back retired members of staff.

"I think we have two crucial advantages here compared to many other nations.

"The first is we had an extra three weeks to prepare in a way they didn’t have in Italy.

"Secondly and crucially is the word 'national'.

"We have a national health service which effectively means that hospitals and community and mental health and ambulance trusts are pulling together to help each other, along with a clear command and control structure which coordinates the response.

"Nobody can answer the question at this point about whether we will be overwhelmed, but it is very clear that the NHS - because it’s a national health service - is probably in one of the best positions in the world to deal with this explosion in demand that we know is coming."



Securing protective equipment supplies is an absolute priority

The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:

"The safety of our NHS frontline staff is an absolute priority.

"They need to be able to carry out their work treating and caring for patients with confidence in their protective equipment.

"It’s clear from our hour-by-hour conversations with trust chief executives that there have been difficulties with local distribution.

"The overall supply is sufficient to meet the increased demand, but the supplies haven’t always reached hospitals, community, mental health and ambulance services.

"This has caused real and understandable concern.

"But it is encouraging to see the way distribution is being scaled up, with support from the army, more flexible deliveries and a 24/7 hotline to ensure shortages are identified and addressed.

"So while problems remain, they are clearly being taken very seriously, and we are seeing progress."


We need to know who will be prioritised for testing

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:

"Trust leaders tell us repeatedly that testing is a vital concern on the NHS frontline.

"The NHS is rapidly scaling up testing capacity from 1,500 with the aim of carrying out 25,000 tests a day.

"But the focus, for now, is on testing patients rather than NHS staff.

"So when those staff - or people they live with – have suspected coronavirus symptoms, they are rightly going into isolation.

"That’s causing disruption and frustration as the NHS workforce is depleted at this crucial time.

"The quicker testing capacity is increased the larger the number of staff, as well as patients, can be tested.

"The promised deployment of a simple antibody test, which is now being trialled, will also help, though this will inevitably take time to consistently reach the NHS frontline.

"But for now it’s clear block testing large numbers of the NHS's 1.2 million staff is not feasible.

"So we need a proper open discussion about who should be prioritised, and we need clarity about how quickly testing capacity can grow."


Everyone must play their part in protecting the NHS

The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:

"The prime minister has been clear the NHS needs everyone’s support in confronting the threat posed by coronavirus.

"We must do that by observing the new restrictions, leaving home only if it is absolutely necessary.

"The guidance on social distancing, washing hands and keeping them away from the face is designed to stem the spread of disease, giving the NHS a better chance of being able to cope with the pressures of COVID-19.

"But this will only work if everyone plays their part in keeping us all safe."


Acts of kindness from local communities to support the NHS

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:

"We have seen so many great examples of kindness, compassion and generosity from people who want to support their NHS at this difficult time.

"Trust leaders and staff are particularly grateful for the thousands of acts of kindness from local communities – from gifts of flowers and food to offers of childcare and accommodation.

"Staff from all parts of trusts are playing their part in responding to this unprecedented challenge.

"Alongside frontline clinical teams, staff from human resources, estates, IT, communications and other support functions are pulling out the stops and taking on new roles to support the response.

"Doctors, nurses and allied health professionals from many different specialties have already moved across to care for patients with COVID-19.

"This is by far the biggest challenge the NHS has ever faced and it is striking how people are pulling together to support their health service and those who work for it."



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