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British govt’s winter COVID plan welcomed as ‘sensible’

British govt’s winter COVID plan welcomed as ‘sensible’

PA Media/dpa
London
The Government’s plans to control the spread of coronavirus in the coming months have been welcomed as “sensible and proportionate.” Health leaders have warned they expect autumn and winter to be busier than ever for the NHS and staffing levels and burnout remain a “critical concern” for many trusts.
There must be a “pragmatic approach” on measures such as the wearing of face masks should cases rise in the months ahead, NHS Providers said.
The membership organization for NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services said plans outlined by Health Secretary Sajid Javid will be broadly welcomed.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The situation in the NHS is far from ‘normal’ and we expect this autumn and winter to be busier than ever for the health service.
“That’s why, alongside the ongoing vaccination and testing and tracing programmes, trust leaders will broadly welcome the Government’s plan to keep a wider range of Covid-19 measures under close review.
“A pragmatic approach towards measures such as mask mandates and increased public caution is vital if cases spike in the coming months, putting the NHS under unsustainable pressure.
“The array of challenges facing the NHS as we head into autumn and winter is daunting.
“Trusts are grappling with record waiting lists across hospital, mental health and community services. Bed capacity is lower because of continuing enhanced infection control measures.
“Staffing levels and burnout continue to be a critical concern for many trusts.” She said demand for urgent and emergency care is above pre-pandemic levels and there are “unprecedented pressures” on ambulance services.
The rollout of coronavirus vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds as well as booster jabs for millions of people who received their first two doses in phase one of the programme will also have to be factored in to NHS plans, she added.
The decision to extend the vaccine programme, a continued focus on testing and good public health messaging are some of the “key points” in the plans for winter, said Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.
Woolhouse, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) which advises the Government, said it remains hard to predict how bad things could get for the NHS in the next few months so the plan remains flexible.
He said: ``The package of measures announced today is a sensible and proportionate response to the Covid-19 threat in the UK this coming winter.
“The severity of the pressure on the NHS in the winter months remains very difficult to predict - the plan recognises this uncertainty and therefore that contingency measures may, or may not, be needed.
“The overarching aim is to continue the return to normal activities while keeping them as safe as possible, with more emphasis on voluntary interventions.
“The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 continues to grow - albeit slowly - and light-touch interventions instigated now are the most effective way of ensuring - as we all hope - that more drastic interventions are not needed later on.” The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) stressed that workforce shortages remain a problem, insisting that health and care staff are not an “inexhaustible resource.” RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “These measures will be key to getting us through the knife-edge winter we all fear.
“But nursing staff will be concerned at issues not referenced today.
“With more Covid-19 vaccinations to deliver as well as the flu programme, the shortages in the nursing workforce will be increasingly exposed. Neglecting to mention these issues does not mean they will go away.
“The Covid-19 and flu vaccination programme is absolutely part of the package to support those staff and minimise the winter pressures they are facing and any measures which reduce the severity and impact of either illness will be supported.”

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