Independent health and care charities warn NHS and social care will take many months to restart

The Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust will later today advise the government that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the public’s fears on seeking treatment and on the exhaustion levels of staff.

The three independent charities will be providing evidence of the above at a Health and Social Care Select Committee session later.

As Covid-19 death rates appear to be stabilising in care homes, the charities will still warn that immediate measures should be taken.

They also warn that the resumption of health and social care services could possibly trigger a second peak of Covid-19 infection, and the reality of planning for winter pressures on the health services.

The three charities have identified five immediate challenges that the government and the health and care sector will face upon resuming services:

Managing infection control and impact on capacity – an expansion of PPE will be required for when services expand.

Also, testing and tracing will need to be expanded, as well as time for cleaning and spacing for social distance rules.

Understanding and addressing the full extent of unmet need – those waiting for care due to Covid-19 priority patients being put first, may have seen their conditions deteriorate.

Additionally, those that have had Covid-19 but no suffer from aftereffects of the virus will need continued care.

Reassuring the public about using services – some members and sectors of the public may not be convinced that easing lockdown restrictions at this point is safe.

This may cause some to fear becoming infected and therefore not use services they need.

Looking after and growing the workforce – staff caring for Covid-19 patients have experienced exhaustion and high stress levels.

These staff will need time to recover and also be able to access support services.

Improving and not just recovering services – Covid-19 has exposed weaknesses that already existed in the healthcare system due to long term underinvestment.

The three charities will point out ‘deep-rooted health inequalities’ amongst other issues that will need to be tackled alongside a backlog of demand.

Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:

“COVID-19 has wreaked significant harm on our society, with the toll felt most sharply by ethnic minority and socioeconomically deprived populations.

“Responding to the virus has exposed strengths and weaknesses in our health and social care system. Getting services back up and running, taking account of likely future pressures from COVID-19, winter, and the backlog of ill health from delayed care will be a steep climb.

“But COVID-19 has also demonstrated how the health and care system can move fast, implement new technology and ways of working, and the deep commitment of NHS and care staff.

“All of these will be needed, with resources to match, to face the challenges ahead.”

Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said:

“As well as the very real and visible challenges faced by NHS hospitals throughout this crisis, there have been multiple hidden frontlines in services such as social care, community health and mental health.

“The health and care system is a complex web of inter-related services: when one part fails, patients and service users can easily fall between the gaps.

“All aspects of the health and care system will need to be back up and running if services are to return to any semblance of normality.

“In the case of social care, normality should not be the aim: the sector needs increased funding and fundamental reform.”

Nigel Edwards said, Chief Executive of Nuffield Trust, said:

“With the virus still at large, there is no easy route back to the way things were before in the NHS, and unfortunately that means people waiting much longer and some services being put on hold.

“Hospitals and a whole range of services provided in the community will have to be remodelled to control infection and keep people safe, by separating out coronavirus patients and testing constantly and quickly at every level.

“We must be honest that this will slow things down.”