A senior medic has warned it is now a “race against time” to vaccinate vulnerable people and healthcare staff before the third Covid wave hits the North.
Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, also said things could get “dire quickly” once a “fraction of the normal winter pressures” are thrown into the mix.
He said: “The situation we are currently experiencing can get worse in a number of ways and the clearer that is for everyone the more chance we will have of ensuring everyone – from senior leaders making decisions through to the public following safety guidelines – is doing all they can to help.
“Covid patients are requiring more and longer hospital care, not necessarily in intensive care units, so beds will fill up and stay filled for longer than in the spring/summer and if you add in even just a fraction of the ‘normal’ winter pressures, things could get dire quickly.
“Also, when you factor in that any ‘surge’ due to Christmas mixing might only just have started to happen, it could get extremely difficult over the next 10 to 21 days as the effects of people catching Covid over Christmas/New Year become apparent.
“Additionally it feels that Covid sweeps up and down the country in waves – first spring wave in London/Midlands, autumn second wave North and now the third wave again in London and the south east.
“The new variant seems to be creeping up the country week-by-week and it is a race against time to get the vulnerable (and staff) vaccinated before the rolling waves hit up in the North again.”
Dr Scriven said that while he thinks the NHS could reach a “maxed out” stage, that would be seen more so in the form of the cancellation of non-urgent operations and clinics as opposed to acute and emergency care – though it would cause “chaos” for those waiting for treatment.
“While I think the NHS could well reach a ‘maxed out’ stage, that will really manifest itself in the cancellation of all non-acute work (operations/clinics) causing further chaos to those waiting for treatment.
“I hope and think the acute care will be delivered but it can and is going to be like April and May again all over before, hopefully, the vaccine starts to attenuate this by Easter.
“The other part of the system at risk is staff and their long-term mental and physical health given the emotionally-draining and exhausting nature of the type of demand being placed on them yet again – and that is without factoring in huge staffing vacancies and the increasing numbers off sick.”