Covid and flu admissions to exceed pandemic levels amid nurses strike

Public ‘won’t take kindly’ to Xmas NHS staff strikes says Roy Lilley

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The strikes are currently planned for December 15 and 20. Ambulance staff in England and Wales also intend to strike on December 21. But modellers have predicted the strikes will take place with the number of patients hospitalised with respiratory viruses set to exceed pandemic levels.

This means the country was heading towards a “slow motion disaster”, with the effects of strike “devastating”, it was warned..

An analysis of UK Health Security data predicts there will be approximately 15,660 admissions for covid and influenza in the fortnight of December 8 to December 21.

This would be higher than the same two week period last year when there were 11,482 admissions for covid and ‘insignificant’ admissions for influenza.

The research was carried out by Omega Analysis Research – which specialises in mathematical forecasting.

Professor Carl Heneghan, an urgent care GP and Director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, said: “I am supportive of nurses and their issues. There is no excuse to run roughshod over nurses.

“But the problem is that the health service is in such dire straits that to pull the plug now will be devastating. It’s like switching off the electricity or gas in mid-winter just when you need it most and it will have a severe impact on the public and patients.

“I could not envisage a worse time to withdraw my labour. Added to this we will have illness and deaths linked to cold and poverty. It is the perfect storm.”

He warned thousands of extra hospital beds are urgently needed to cope with increased demand.

He said: “The current occupancy rates are at 95 percent capacity. It is estimated winter pressures including respiratory viruses will add to this significantly. I work out we are roughly two weeks from the crisis point when the deluge of respiratory infections takes off and we will be in real trouble.”

Dr Malcolm Kendrick a GP based in Macclesfield said: “We are heading for a slow motion disaster. The whole NHS system is running broken. It functions because it gets £150 billion a year but it’s getting worse.

“Only yesterday a guy collapsed with a heart problem while I was at lunch. I was on the phone to 999 to get him an ambulance. But there were none so I had to take him in my car to A&E.

“This is a health service collapse and it is happening all over the country. Why are there no Cobra meetings? Why isn’t the government rushing round trying to fix this crisis?”

Dr Charles Levinson, Medical Director of the leading private GP company, Doctorcall, said: “The nurses are fighting a rearguard action with the fallout of lockdowns. This is the first winter since 2019 where there has been no lockdown in any form. Many of us warned this would happen.

“People have not had their immune systems exposed to viruses because of this which has disrupted the relatively stable rates of infectious disease and in addition hospitals are having to cope with all the people who didn’t get checked up in lockdown who are now presenting with more advanced illness which is much more difficult to deal with.

“It is too late to prevent this from playing out over the next few weeks.”

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine believes up to 500 urgent care patients are dying each week due to lack of timely emergency care.

Chair Dr Adrian Boyle said: “There are some frightening rising rates of transmissible diseases such as flu, RSV and Strep Group A.

“I am worried it will become normal for someone to fall over and break their hip, or have a heart attack to wait an unacceptable six hours on the floor for an ambulance. This should not be normal.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay has said of the planned strikes: “NHS workers do an incredible job caring for our loved ones and it is disappointing some will be taking industrial action, ahead of a challenging winter.

“The economic circumstances mean unions’ demands are not affordable – each additional 1 percent pay rise for all staff on the Agenda for Change contract would cost around £700 million a year.

“We’ve prioritised the NHS with record funding and accepted the independent pay review body’s recommendations to give over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, with those on the lowest salaries receiving an increase of up to 9.3%.

“This is on top of the 3% award last year when wider public sector pay was frozen and on top of the wider government support to help with the cost of living.

“Our priority is to ensure emergency services continue to operate for those who need it and limit disruption, particularly at a time when NHS services are under huge pressure due to the impact of Covid.”

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