We owe it to the 150,000 never to be in this situation again

Matthew Taylor comments on the tragic news that 150,000 people have now died within 28 days of their first positive test for Covid-19.

8 January 2022

Commenting on the tragic news that 150,000 people have now died within 28 days of their first positive test for Covid-19, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said:

“This is a grim and almost unimaginable milestone. We owe it to the 150,000 people and their bereaved loved ones to address the fundamental failings that meant we entered the pandemic with 100,000 staff vacancies in the NHS, run-down buildings, a lack of personal protective equipment and limited diagnostic testing capacity.

“Back in March 2020 a senior health official said the UK would do well if it managed to keep the coronavirus death toll below 20,000 people. That we have reached a death toll almost eight times that number and we are still in the grip of this virus.

“The public inquiry into the pandemic that will begin work this spring will pose fundamental questions into the response of the state. It is crucial that we learn the lessons. The NHS did not enter the pandemic in a resilient state following a decade of the lowest real terms funding increases in the NHS’ history. That left us with 100,000 staff vacancies, run-down buildings, a lack of key equipment and without the effective testing capacity. This has not only made it much harder to tackle Covid-19, but it has meant all parts of the health and care system have been placed under immense pressure and a massive backlog of care – some of it still hidden – has built up.

“The focus now is on getting through the third wave of Covid-19, but as soon as we are we will need to learn these lessons as a country and address the lack of investment in key parts of our infrastructure. Despite this, we must acknowledge the heroic efforts of NHS staff to continue to do everything they can to respond to the virus and the other major challenges facing local services – this has been a grueling two years and there is still no end in sight.

“The Government has allocated extra funding to health and care system, some of it raised through the National Insurance rise. We will need to sustain real terms increases year on year into the future to meet the needs of an ageing population. With digital and biomedical advances, the longer term future for health care is bright, but boom and bust funding makes innovation and improvement harder.”