Responding to NHS Providers' Recovery Position report and the Royal College of Physicians’ survey revealing services will take over a year to return to full capacity, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“We face a long road to recovery and both politicians and the public need to understand this. The leaders of health and care services will do everything they can to bring back services as safely and as quickly as they can, but the message has to be ‘don’t expect anything like normal anytime soon’.
"There was a significant backlog of treatment before the pandemic – now it is enormous, because services were stopped or slowed down and because lockdown has brought its own raft of health problems.
"NHS organisations now have to build back services with social distancing and the need for PPE and that means many fewer patients are treated
"We now need to add a productivity crisis to a workforce and funding crisis. Even assuming there is no second spike, the challenges ahead are huge.
"Our NHS Reset campaign
has shown that the NHS is facing increased demand and reduced capacity which means it will be many months before we can hope to get back even to the unsatisfactory position we were in before the virus struck."
- An extension of emergency funding across all sectors of the NHS, given significant extra demand across all services. Longer term funding will be needed for rehabilitation and recovery services in the community, including for mental health, to manage patients at home and in the community.
- Putting in place an ongoing arrangement with the private sector – this will be vital to provide capacity to respond to the backlog of treatment.
- A call for assurance that there will be a fully operational and robust test, track and trace system, as well as appropriate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE),as services are resumed.
- Clarity over when there will be a return the greater autonomy local organisations had before COVID-19 returned, as we move from Level 4 to Level 3. This should be considered as part of a wider move to less central command and control when the pandemic has subsided.
- A commitment to acknowledge and address health inequalities wherever possible through upcoming guidance and policy reform.
- A delay in returning to the inspection regime of the CQC to take into account the positive changes that have been achieved as a result of the lighter touch approach to regulation that has been in place during the pandemic.
- A review of the impact of COVID-19 on the NHS and social care workforce given the unprecedented pressure staff have been under