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Clapped-out kit, long delays, too few beds and staff: NHS enters 2021 in a sorry state

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Think 2020 has been awful for the NHS? Next year is shaping up to be far worse – and most of the huge hole it’s in was dug long before Covid. The virus has merely finished off the job.

The health service does not have the beds, staff or equipment to recover the ground it lost during the first two waves of the coronavirus pandemic, but the government is blocking desperately needed improvements, and another round of organisational upheaval is on its way.

Roughly one in 11 clinical posts are vacant, and it would hardly be a surprise to see many staff rush for the retirement door once the worst of the pandemic is behind us. The NHS can’t solve the problem without long-term certainty over funding for staff.

Around 140,000 patients in England have been waiting more than a year for surgeries such as a hip replacements, up a hundredfold from a year ago. With the whole system beset by delays long before we had even heard of coronavirus, the lack of spare capacity means it will take years to help many patients.

Unprecedented interruptions and delays to cancer tests and treatments have been exacerbated by the pitiful state of diagnostic equipment. Access to CT and MRI scanners is far behind countries with a fraction of our wealth, such as Slovenia and Slovakia. Y

In the midst of all this turmoil, the NHS in England faces another round of legislative and organisational upheaval next year, the likely arrival of a new chief executive, and a potential fight with Downing Street over the extent of political control.

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Source: The Guardian, 18 December 2020

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