NHS faces double emergency of unprecedented demand and high COVID-19-related staff absences

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, responds to NHS England's latest winter sitrep.

7 April 2022

Responding to statistics released in the latest winter situation report (sitrep) from NHS England, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said:

“The NHS is clearly experiencing a worsening double emergency, as it faces a combination of both unprecedented levels of demand and rising levels of staff absences due to COVID-19. Hospitals are also now running extremely hot with bed occupancy levels running at 94 per cent, while staff absences due to COVID-19 are the highest we have seen since late January.

“Whilst hospitals, A&E departments and ambulance handovers are showing how much pressure there is at the NHS front door, these numbers are the consequence of mounting pressures across all parts of the system, including pressures in primary care and social care.

“This pandemic is not yet over, despite government rhetoric and the publication of its ‘Living with Covid’ plan, and rising COVID-19 hospitalisations are undermining the efforts of exhausted and over-stretched NHS staff to tackle the large treatment backlogs that have developed over the past two years.

“NHS staff are continuing to work hard to deliver the best possible care to patients and bring down waiting times, and many NHS organisations have introduced new, innovative ways of achieving these aims.

“But ultimately, the government must be honest with the public about the need for people to take steps to curb the spread of COVID-19 where it is possible for them to do so. The government must also be honest about what people can expect from the NHS during this period of incredible strain.”