13 Sep COVID-19: ‘Unprepared’ NHS and flawed government policy contributed to coronavirus crisis, says BMA | UK News
A chronically neglected NHS was not prepared to deal with the devastating impact of COVID-19, the chair of the British Medical Association will say, as he criticises the government’s handling of the pandemic.
The NHS was already in crisis – with almost 90,000 staff vacancies and waiting lists at an all-time high, including record waiting times for cancer treatment – before the pandemic struck, according to Dr Chaand Nagpaul.
England’s so-called Freedom Day, on 19 July, was a “gamble”, which has contributed to more than 40,000 hospital admissions and more than 4,000 deaths, he adds.
In a speech, to be given at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting, he will warn that staff will “not accept a return to the old pre-pandemic NHS which was so patently under-staffed and under-resourced, where nine in 10 doctors are afraid of medical errors daily”.
The chair of the trade union, which represents doctors and medical students in the UK, continues: “We will not accept an NHS running at unsafe bed occupancy and without spare capacity.
“We will not accept an NHS unprepared for a pandemic, without vital PPE to protect the health and lives of health and care workers.
“We will not accept an NHS in crisis every summer, let alone every winter.”
Dr Nagpaul adds: “We will not accept a nation bereft of public health staff, facilities and testing capacity, with ministers then paying billions to private companies who were unable to deliver.”
More than 130,000 people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in the UK, with 12,000 excess non-COVID deaths last year, the BMA says.
Dr Nagpaul will criticise ministers for dismissing calls for a rapid inquiry into the crisis last year, which meant crucial lessons from 2020 were not learned before the second wave of infections.
The government is hoping that an increase in funding for the health service over the coming years will help it recover from the pandemic.
A 1.25 percentage point increase in national insurance is hoped to raise £12bn extra a year, with the NHS receiving most of the share for the next three years.
In addition, £5.3bn has been allocated to social care, £500m of which is to be spent on recruitment and training.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We have backed the health service at every turn, with an extra £29bn to support health and care services on top of our historic settlement for the NHS in 2018.
“This will see the NHS budget rise by £33.9bn by 2023/24.
“At the same time, we are backing the NHS with a further £36bn for health and social care and a ring-fenced £8bn to tackle backlogs and help the NHS deliver an extra nine million checks, scans and operations for patients across the country.”