The NHS needs protecting now – Boris Johnson can’t afford to make the same mistake twice

Editorial: The government should at least require masks and working from home until the path of infections is clear

Saturday 23 October 2021 21:30
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<p>The prime minister should set this example to his MPs more often </p>

The prime minister should set this example to his MPs more often

When Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said he did not believe that the current pressures on the National Health Service were “unsustainable”, this was a matter of semantics. Obviously, the pressures will be sustained, by a stretched and often demoralised staff, and by stoical and resigned patients. The question is whether the government needs to take action now to make the situation more sustainable.

It is as well to be clear that the main problem in the NHS at the moment is not Covid-19, but the huge pressure of unmet demand for treatment that has been suppressed by the pandemic over the past 19 months. This is combined with the problem of staff shortages to produce extended waits in A&E departments, with one hospital to begin turning away people with non-life-threatening conditions from Monday. Shaun Lintern, our health correspondent, in a special report exposes the depth of the crisis across the country.

However, the potentially exponential spread of coronavirus means that we could be just three or four weeks away from Covid-19 putting the NHS under what would be unsustainable pressure under anybody’s definition, according to Professor Graham Medley, chair of Spi-M, the government’s scientific committee modelling the spread of the virus.

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