Commenting today (03 January) on staff sickness rates, Covid admissions and increasing pressure across the NHS, Dr Nick Scriven, past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:
“I think we are beginning to see concerns moving from “Covid admissions swamping the service” to “the service risks being decimated” but through it all we cannot ignore the millions of non-NHS essential workers everyone depends upon to stay safe and they too will be stretched like never before.
“Regarding the NHS I would assume the next move before wider society restrictions would be to scale back non-urgent elective care. This happens officially or is forced nearly every year due to pressure and would enable urgent care to struggle on.
“Individual staff members, those running units and those in charge all need to remain honest in saying when things become unsafe due to staff absence and staff at work and those recovering from illness must not be pressurised into doing more at the expense of their own health, while we must avoid cutting corners in care where it becomes unsafe.
“Unfortunately to remain safe areas of what could be called “comfort care” might be impacted, as will things such as answering ringing telephones with relatives asking for information – so it is important we are frank with the public and so we can ensure their support and understanding at difficult times.
“The bigger picture questions are how the two main initiatives in the NHS that are being proposed as a way out of chaos – surge capacity and “virtual wards” – will be implemented as both require either more staff or retraining and pulling away from areas already critically short.
“As always we are depending on the efforts, skills, care and compassion from a workforce who we need every possible support over the next months and then a definite and mandated plan for their recovery, but there is no doubt what we are asking of everyone at this time is more challenging than ever.”