BRITS should continue to use the NHS during the second lockdown – despite moving into its highest state of alert, health bosses say.
Hospitals are already battling to manage a surge in in coronavirus admissions with numbers only expected to rise in the coming weeks.
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But people are urged to still come forward if they need care after the first lockdown saw patients avoid getting help to relieve strain on the NHS.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts and foundation trusts in England, told BBC Breakfast: “We can’t help you unless you come forward, so help us to help you.”
Speaking about the alert level moving from three to four – the highest – he warned “this is no longer normal business for the NHS”.
“This number of patients we are seeing and the level of national co-ordination means that we really need to step up a gear to make sure this is all being managed effectively,” he said.
We really need to step up a gear to make sure this is all being managed effectively
“If we carry on seeing the increase in the number of patients that we are currently seeing we won’t be able to look after everybody in the way that we would want to, particularly over winter.”
But he added: “This is more an NHS behind-the-scenes administrative measure, so patients won’t perceive any difference”
Mr Hopson also urged the public to stick to the new lockdown measures to help the NHS recover some of the care backlogs that had built up over the peak of the first wave.
He said hospitals in Liverpool had almost been at the point of having to reduce the number of cancer surgeries in a bid to cope with Covid-19.
Mr Hopson said: “The whole point (of a level four alert) is that the NHS structure moved into action very quickly and those patients have been moved into other hospitals in nearby areas.”
The NHS moved into its highest state of alert on Thursday in a bid to keep patient numbers under control.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, claimed it was in response to the “serious situation ahead”.
He said hospitals are filling up with “desperately sick” Covid patients and that the country is close to seeing a situation worse than the first peak.
Level 4 is an incident that requires NHS England and National Command and Control to support the NHS response.
It requires the NHS to coordinate its response in collaboration with local commissioners.
Sir Simon said: “The level had to be that at the end of January and at the back end of June.
“It’s not a situation anyone wants to be in”, he added.
This is different to the Covid alert level which was moved from level 3 to level 4 back in September.
Level 3 means that the Covid virus is in general circulation, and level 4 means that transmission is high or rising exponentially.
‘WINTER IS COMING’
Stephen Powis, medical director at NHS England said hospitals across the country are already at the point where they are “very busy” adding, “we are still in autumn”.
He said: “It is not the case that hospitals are quiet – winter is coming.
“What I hear from NHS staff is anxiety going into winter, they know how hard they had to work in the first peak and there is a determination to get the job done.
“They get out of bed to treat people and help them recover. This won’t be a normal winter unless we all assist.”
The Prime Minister reiterated the point in the Commons yesterday afternoon as MPs debated a second national lockdown.
“Be in no doubt what that means for our country and for our society,” Boris Johnson said.
“It means that the precious principle of care for everyone who needs it, whoever they are, whenever they need it, that principle could be shattered for the first time in our experience.
“It means those who are sick and suffering and in need of help could be turned away because there was no room in our hospitals.
“Doctors and nurses could be forced to make impossible choices about which patients who live and die. Who would get oxygen and who couldn’t.”
MPs voted by 516 to 38 – a Government majority of 478 – for the new restrictions, which are due to expire on December 2.
However, in a bigger-than-expected Commons rebellion, 32 Tory MPs defied the whips to vote against the measures, with two more acting as tellers for the noes.
Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops have closed their doors and members of the public have been told to stay at home for the next four weeks in a bid to reverse the spread of Covid-19 from today.