As cases of coronavirus increase across the UK, Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, comments on the government response, pressures on the NHS and staffing.
“To date, the government response has been to tread the fine line between preparing for the worst but trying not to cause mass panic and I think they have done so.
“In terms of the NHS coping, as we are running at 93% full beds at present there is very little room for any surge as such unless more bed space is created and one option will be to cancel elective surgical treatments to free up beds and staff.
“This, of course, will be hugely detrimental to patients and will exacerbate the waiting list crisis even further, which is where the government does need to accept responsibility for years of squeezing bed capacity, enabling vacancy rates to go through the roof and under-investing.
“The biggest concern I have in terms of management of COVID-19 is staff and what happens when hospital and community workers become ill or go into isolation or, given the people who work in the NHS, have to look after young families or schools close.”