Dr Susan Crossland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “While staff across the NHS are pulling out all the stops to manage the coronavirus problem in hospitals and will continue to, there is no doubt it will escalate significantly over the coming weeks and months and there are grave concerns as to how the system will cope.
“It is obviously welcome to see the promise of investment in yesterday’s budget, that will help to cover equipment, medicines and overtime but it will be a sticking plaster and won’t be the solution to coming up with trained staff at short notice, particularly in areas such as intensive care units.
“The release of performance data has been following a downward trend for some time and questions have to be asked as to how the NHS has been allowed to get into such difficulty financially, staffing-wise and with ageing estates when the threat of health crises are always a possibility.
“There is now a real threat to elective (planned) surgery which is already in a very bad place in terms of waiting times and will shortly fall victim to further wholesale cancellations as trusts plan to create the extra capacity needed to cope with the demand COVID-19 will create.
“I would go as far as saying there has been gross negligence and only now are we seeing the government come to the realisation that the NHS is central to the running of the country and, at least, may now avoid ever allowing it to be run into the ground as it has in recent years.”