SAM president says coronavirus plans “working well” but major outbreak would bring “immense stress”

In response to questions about the ability of the NHS to manage a widespread outbreak of coronavirus, Dr Susan Crossland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:

“Rightly so the government, Public Health England and the NHS are working hard to manage the coronavirus situation and that co-ordination has been working well for the most part which is credit to all involved and individual healthcare organisations and staff on the ground.

“However, it is absolutely in no doubt that a major outbreak would bring immense stress to an already broken NHS which has suffered years and years of squeeze and lack of investment, so while the emergency planning measures put in place specifically for coronavirus have been good, the wider picture is one of grave concern.

“The problems are well-documented: Nursing and medical vacancies, reduction in bed numbers, delays to social care reform, the pension tax driving away senior clinicians, a growing elderly and frail population with complex medical needs and a crumbling NHS estate.

“One of the huge problems we will see in the event a widespread outbreak is a complete squeeze on elective (planned) surgery that will have huge implications for already dire patient waiting times and this directly relates to the under-funding of previous years.

“The only thing that will see the country through such a period will once again be the frontline staff who never fail to deliver for patients despite being under extreme stress and that is a credit to our NHS, however, it simply shouldn’t be that way and that is why we must still criticise those in power despite the positive efforts to deal with the growing coronavirus problem.”