Some of the covid control measures taken in the past two years need to return, argued Dr Kamran Abbasi, editor of the British Medical Journal, and HSJ editor Alastair McLellan in a hard-hitting joint editorial yesterday.
They said that while the headlines focused on pressures created by the heatwave and ambulances queuing outside hospitals, there were other factors at play, such as prolonged periods of underfunding in the past decade, lack of an adequate workforce plan and a cowardly and short-sighted failure to undertake social care reform.
The other problem is that covid fatigue means the nation’s attempt to “live with the virus” is the straw that is breaking the NHS’s back.
The hope that 2022 would be a year of full-speed recovery, with coronavirus safely in the rearview mirror, has now made way to the reality that it is July, and not counting the first omicron surge that peaked in January, the UK and the NHS have experienced two further covid waves, with gaps of just under three months between peaks. The current wave of hospital admissions driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 variants is likely to peak in the next few days, but other variants will be ready for global distribution soon.
The heart of the problem is the failure to recognise that the pandemic is far from over and that a return to some of the measures taken in the past two years is needed, write Kamran and Alastair.
Existing public health advice to wear masks in crowded places, ensure good ventilation, and test regularly need to be communicated much more powerfully and widely. This should include a return to mask wearing in healthcare settings and on public transport, as well as the re-introduction of free tests for the public. Read their full editorial here.
Specialist centres revealed
Yesterday we named the 11 hospitals selected to be specialist surgical centres under a controversial reconfiguration led by NHS England.
NHSE internal documents show the plans to consolidate intestinal failure services would mean surgical care being withdrawn from dozens of other acute sites.
The specialist centres are “confirmed” to be the acute hospitals in Bristol, Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, Salford, Nottingham, Coventry, Leeds, Newcastle, and Harrow in north west London. A twelfth centre is also proposed for central London.
Up to 40 hospitals have been delivering IF surgical care in recent years, but a process was launched by NHSE in 2018 to dramatically reduce that number. Read the full story.