Respondng to today's Downing Street briefing, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“We are seeing the early signs of the spread of coronavirus beginning to reduce nationally but continued vigilance from the public is imperative if we are to give the NHS a fighting chance this winter.
“Health leaders are telling us they are very worried about the impact that coronavirus infections are having on their ability to provide a full complement of services for patients and while they are doing their best to minimize disruption, difficult decisions are having to be made in some places to reschedule and delay routine procedures.
“When the national restrictions are lifted in two weeks’ time, life cannot go back to normal and they will have to be replaced with measures that protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed. Otherwise, we won’t have long before we will face a third wave when winter pressures will be at their greatest, especially as the test and trace system is failing to reach half of people’s contacts.
“The coronavirus vaccine offers us a glimmer of hope but it won’t save the NHS this Christmas. This responsibility rests with the public and the actions of those in Government over the next two weeks.
“The vaccination programme is the next massive priority for the NHS: the government will need to explain to the public the impact this will have on already understaffed and stretched teams and the other services they provide.”