Responding to news that the NHS in England is setting up new 'Nightingale surge hubs' at hospitals across England, Dr Layla McCay, Director of Policy at the NHS Confederation, said:
"With Omicron cases continuing to rocket, it is right the NHS puts in place extra plans for a sizeable wave of serious illness in January, alongside providing its other services for patients.
"There are early signs that Omicron may not affect some people as severely as previous strains of Covid have done, but regardless, many people are already in hospital with this variant, and the sheer number of people catching Covid right now means that the impact on the NHS could potentially be huge. There is still a lot we do not know yet, so leaders are planning for the worst and hoping for the best. They are making these urgent plans knowing they face a growing staffing crisis.
"The Nightingale surge hubs will be on top of plans the NHS has put in place already to support people with Covid, including using beds in hotels, care homes, hospices and other settings, as well as setting up virtual wards.
"Our members are reporting that the majority of people in intensive care with Covid are unvaccinated, so the best defence is still to take up that vital offer of a jab – it’s not too late to book yours. The NHS has been working around the clock to deliver jabs in arms with many primary care sites doing just that over the holidays, and they will continue to do so.
"While the attention will be on hospital admissions and avoiding an immediate crisis, leaders are anxious that the long-term symptoms and consequences of Covid are not forgotten as these can place a considerable and sustained burden on primary and community services, which are already under considerable pressure."