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This Easter will be worse than any winter for the NHS

Two years ago the first wave of the covid pandemic reached its peak. The NHS had reacted with impressive speed to prepare for an influx of patients with an infectious disease that few knew much about, had no cure for, and for which there was no known vaccine.

However, now the NHS goes into the Easter break in a more fragile state than in any previous winter since, at least, the 1990s.

This is not just the direct result of covid hospitalisation, of course – although the distracting narrative of ‘with rather than because of covid’ has obscured how hugely damaging any kind of infectious disease that is as widespread in the community as covid is now can be to effective hospital care.

For someone who has just undergone an operation, for example, the greatest threat is not from catching covid itself, but from the impact the virus may have on how quickly their wound may heal.

Perhaps covid’s greatest continuing impact is on growing staff absences and the pernicious impact it is having on the long-term health of those who had the disease – even in some cases where it has been relatively mild. For the tens of thousands who have been hospitalised with covid, the consequences for their long-term health look more serious every day.

Much of this new workload is ending up at the doors of primary and community care – and displacing other needs and services just when they are most required after two years of coping with the pandemic.

There is usually one thing you can confidently say about the NHS, which is that in any crisis it will make sure the life-saving decisions are made on time.

However, in the South West, and probably other regions too, that is not happening. People are dying because the NHS cannot – despite its best efforts – save them.

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 8 April 2022


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