It’s hard to recall a winter when the NHS was not in crisis. The seasonal rise in respiratory infections seems to take hospital managers by surprise every year.
This year, however, the situation is deadly – and getting worse.
Already under strain because of waiting lists caused by the pandemic, staff shortages and strikes, a bad flu season and high Covid rates have brought many hospitals to breaking point.
Mismanagement has undoubtedly played its part, with record sums being ploughed into the NHS for little discernible benefit.
And the failure to solve chronic social care problems means thousands of beds are blocked by elderly people who should be being looked after elsewhere.
These shortcomings must be addressed. Without radical reform, the NHS is doomed.
When seriously ill patients must wait days for a bed, the system is simply not working.
When seriously ill patients must wait days for a bed, the system is simply not working
But that overhaul will take time. Ministers must also act to alleviate the immediate crisis, which according to A&E doctors is killing up to 500 people every week.
In today’s Mail, emergency medicine consultant Professor Rob Galloway says the first imperative is to unblock beds by discharging medically fit patients to care facilities, private hospitals or even hotels.
Pharmacists could also ease the burden by being allowed to prescribe medication, and non-urgent surgery could be postponed until the crisis abates.
Above all the NHS needs to be more nimble. The speed with which the Covid vaccine was developed and rolled out showed what can be done with drive and initiative.
That can-do spirit must now be revived – and fast.
Ghosts of Whitehall
The full extent of Whitehall’s failure to return to the office after Covid is exposed today by a damning Mail investigation.
Many government departments are still less than two-thirds full and despite an increase of 13,000 London-based civil servant jobs since the start of the pandemic, 5,000 desks have been removed.
In Labour-run Wales, barely 10 per cent of officials have been at their desks in recent months.
Many government departments are still less than two-thirds full and despite an increase of 13,000 London-based civil servant jobs since the start of the pandemic, 5,000 desks have been removed
These numbers show that working from home several days a week has become normalised, despite appalling backlogs and complaints of poor service.
Routine home-working is bad for productivity and for the teamwork on which industry and creativity thrive.
It also reduces the opportunity for younger staff to learn on the job from colleagues.
It is crucial for our economic recovery that white-collar Britain gets back to the workplace. Instead of backsliding, the Civil Service should be leading by example.
A cracked record
A tell-all book penned by their avowed supporters. A tell-all interview with Oprah. A tell-all Netflix series.
Now another tell-all book, and more TV interviews on both sides of the Atlantic.
Will Harry and Meghan ever give it a rest?
They have made a handsome living out of lachrymose victimhood but it’s become a cracked record. Even their most ardent sympathisers must be losing interest
How many more times can they rehash the same old yarn about how ghastly their life of royal privilege was and how they courageously broke away?
They have made a handsome living out of lachrymose victimhood but it’s become a cracked record. Even their most ardent sympathisers must be losing interest.
Judging by the brief trailer of Harry’s interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby, he is once again going to lay into his brother Prince William and father King Charles.
Yet despite his relentless assaults on them, Harry seems surprised his family aren’t in the mood for reconciliation. ‘It never needed to be this way,’ he says.
Indeed it didn’t. If Harry genuinely wants to build bridges with his family, he might look in the mirror, acknowledge how deeply he has hurt them and engage in a period of blessed silence.