Responding to the press conference by health secretary Matt Hancock today, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“The NHS has been on the move for some time and today’s further steps by the government just demonstrate the scale of this crisis. When we saw the Chinese build instant hospitals, how many of us thought that would be needed here within a couple of months? But it is another vital weapon in this war against the virus.
“Our members and their staff are already under incredible strain and all these steps are so welcome, but it is obviously not just about the UK governments or even the NHS and social care; which is why we make this plea to everyone in this country – please follow the medical advice and protect the NHS and social care staff who are working flat out to protect you and those you love.
“And for those who can please become an NHS Volunteer Responder – collecting prescriptions from pharmacies and driving people home from hospital are small feats that together will make a huge difference.
“People may be slow to praise those masterminding all this locally and nationally, but we do so knowing how much effort is being made by managers, officials and medical experts and leaders in hospitals, community services and in GP surgeries as well as in national organisations.
“We know the distribution of protective equipment was not handled well initially and that has been acknowledged. But it seems a huge effort has been made to make sure face masks and other personal protective equipment reach frontline services, including general practices and care homes.
“But we must keep this under review and listen to the messages coming from clinicians. We also need clear and unambiguous guidance for all health and care staff on the use of equipment which will vary by location and symptoms. We are still hearing from our members that this is leaving too many staff frightened and confused. There is for example real concern in the community about protecting staff who are treating asymptomatic patients who may be carrying the virus.
“The purchase of 3.5 million antibody tests is great news – they cannot come fast enough. WHO says ‘test,test,test’ and we agree. We must make sure frontline staff across hospitals, community healthcare services and primary and social care, are given priority for these tests – they will be a vital weapon in enabling us to maintain the workforce that is fighting this battle to save so many lives.”