Pressures are stretching the NHS like never before

04 January 2022

Responding to the Downing Street press conference, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:

"Trust leaders will be understandably worried by another spike in the number of positive COVID-19 cases today with a record 218,724 cases confirmed. Any surge in infections will, as we have already seen, add pressure on an already stretched health service in increased hospitalisations a week to 10 days later.

"Due to the huge success of the vaccination campaign, hospitals have seen far fewer critically ill older people that we might have expected. But we mustn't underestimate just how many challenges the NHS is juggling at the moment. The pressures we were seeing in London over the festive period are now being felt throughout England. The impact of the significant increase in the number of COVID-19 patients, the large number of staff unable to work due to COVID-19 self-isolation and sickness and the ongoing demands of non-COVID care are stretching the NHS like never before.

"We can, though, take reassurance from the fact that the NHS has proved, time and again over the last 18 months, that it can flex and stretch to meet whatever challenge COVID-19 brings. And the data from London, showing a continued lower level of daily growth in the number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients, is grounds for optimism.

"But trust chief executives want everyone to be clear just how much we are asking of our frontline heath and care staff. And they are hugely grateful for the dedication and professionalism of those staff.

"It is clear that the pandemic is far from over and we still do not know the full impact of any extra social contact over the festive period and schools returning. So it is very premature to declare victory over the Omicron variant. It is right that existing Plan B restrictions remain in place while we try to curb the rate of infections. The government must also be ready to react rapidly and introduce additional restrictions if the evidence demands it."

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