UK facing Covid crisis as ‘perfect storm’ to throw NHS into chaos

Shirley Ballas provides update on how she's coping with COVID

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Britain could be gripped by a major health crisis as a surge in Covid cases, combined with winter flu, and a strained NHS could lead to a “perfect storm” that overwhelms the health system. The number of cases of being hospitalised due to Covid-19 has doubled in the last fortnight, as the autumn wave begins to surge. According to NHS figures, there are now about 1,129 new patients per day – up from 574 per day in mid-September. Overall cases are also climbing, which is causing health chiefs to fear they could be seeing a third wave of patients since April. 

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Amitava Banerjee, a Professor of Clinical Data Science at UCL and an NHS cardiologist warned that the UK could be facing an autumn wave. 

He said: “What we should keep in mind is that the scale of infection in the last two-and-a-half-years has been so high that even if something happens in one percent of people, that can be a big number, which can potentially swamp the health system or lead to reduced capacity of workforce and so on. That’s what happened in the first wave.

“I don’t think anybody could say with certainty that we’re heading into an autumn wave, but given how the last few years have gone, we should be anything but gung-ho.

“The UK has been distracted by a lot of other things going on at the moment, and we’ve got a perfect storm brewing of covid cases rising, autumn and winter flu, and a workforce that’s already pretty strained.

“So that complacency of politicians and people, whether that’s about vaccinations or wearing a mask in closed places, can potentially lead to a wave, 100 percent.”

He explained flu cases generally surge during autumn and winter, which means the most vulnerable people need to get the flu vaccine, as flu season always brings with it increased pressure on the NHS.

He added: “Older people and those with cardiovascular health problems, they are more at risk of the underlying virus. But they also benefit more from the vaccination. The message is really easy – get your jabs and avoid possibly being infected if you can.”

When asked if there’s a risk of hospitals being full, he said: “Definitely. We already have a backlog that’s already there before covid, but it’s much much worse because elective things being cancelled, because of people not going to the hospital and so on.

That progress on the backlog of cases and operations has remained slow, particularly as the hospitals also take on new cases every day, although the backlog varies by different procedures and specialities.

Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical advisor at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “This week’s data shows concerning further increases in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisation rates, which are now at their highest level in months.

“Outbreaks in hospitals and care homes are also on the rise. Make sure you have any vaccinations you are eligible for and avoid contact with others if you feel unwell or have symptoms of an infection.”

This comes as the Royal College of Nursing has begun balloting all of its UK members for strike action for the first time in its 106-year history.

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The nurses’ union has urged its members to walk out over pay, as the result of the ballot are due next month. If these strikes go ahead, the RCN said only non-urgent care would be disrupted, not emergency care. 

Meanwhile, the Government asked the nurses to “carefully consider” the impact of a strike on the patients as this would likely increase the burden on the NHS. 

The RCN’s members demanded an increase in pay of 5 percent above the inflation rate of 12 percent.

General secretary Pat Cullen told the BBC: “We’re not asking for the salaries of bankers or billionaires that seems to be the focus of this government.

“We’re just asking for a decent wage for our nursing staff so they can continue to do the brilliant job they do everyday for their patients, and so that we can absolutely retain the staff that we’ve got.”

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