UNIONS and campaigners have urged the government to invest in the NHS as a new report warns of a “triple whammy” of staff exhaustion, treatment backlogs and a second wave of Covid-19.
The NHS Confederation says that the disruption caused by the pandemic must lead to a transformation of the health service and urged more government funding to restore services, cover rising demand and tackle health inequalities.
Its NHS Reset report warns that the service is dealing with local outbreaks and a second surge of cases alongside a “huge backlog” of people needing care, with staff exhausted and capacity reduced due to infection-control measures.
The health-service body says that the “road to recovery will be long” for the NHS, which it adds was already under significant pressure as it entered the pandemic.
Its survey found that that 74 per cent of 252 NHS leaders are concerned about being able to hit targets for resuming routine operations by the end of October.
And only 8 per cent of NHS leaders surveyed said that current funding allows them to deliver safe and effective services.
The report’s authors warn that while the NHS has made huge progress to restore services towards pre-pandemic levels, the impact of Covid-19 is likely to have an effect on NHS capacity for “several years.”
The report also argues that there must be action to tackle health inequalities, which it warns have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
NHS Confederation chairman Lord Victor Adebowale said: “This is the moment for government to grasp the nettle, be bold and invest in a health and care system — not just for this winter but for the long term.
“Above all, we need to see a radical and conscious shift in every part of the country towards tackling health inequalities.”
Sara Gorton, head of health at public-sector union Unison, said that the “stakes are too high” and the “pressures too great” to delay an “early and significant” pay rise of at least £2,000 for all NHS staff.
She added that a pay rise this year would “help keep skilled workers in their jobs and attract many much-needed new recruits.”
GMB union’s national officer Rachel Harrison warned that health-care staff are at risk of a “looming mental health crisis” due to stress and unresolved issues surrounding personal protective equipment and Covid-19 testing.
She said that health workers need to be “minsters’ top priority.”
Dr Louise Irvine, GP and member of Keep Our NHS Public, told the Morning Star that the government “must recognise this critical situation and give the NHS the resources it needs, including giving NHS staff a decent pay rise now to aid recruitment and retention.”
Labour called for the national cancer screening programme to fully restart, as new data shows a record low in the number of people receiving treatment during the pandemic.
Its figures show that just 319 people started cancer treatment in July after attending a screening programme – a decrease of 64 per cent compared with the same timeframe last year.
Shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “It’s now urgent that ministers bring forward a plan to tackle the backlog in non Covid-19 care.”