Responding to today’s Downing Street briefing, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“For all the talk about being past the peak neither the NHS nor the British public are out of danger yet.
“The NHS faces two immediate risks. First there could be a second peak and we must retain the capacity to manage that. Second health leaders will want to be very careful in switching services back on in a way that is manageable and does not overwhelm the system – what happens in hospitals has a major knock-on effect on services on the community.
“And as we switch on services we will need to involve everyone.
“We also remain deeply concerned about what is happening in care homes and it is great to see NHS organisations supporting social care at this desperate time. In places there are now more Covid patients being treated in the community than in hospital and we need to recognise and do more to support all the health and social care staff battling the virus in community hospitals, care homes and hospitals across the country.
“Social distancing cannot be relaxed until concerns with PPE supply and accessing tests are resolved and we know there is much still to do. If face masks are to be offered to the public when restrictions are eased, it must not be at the expense of NHS supply.
“Use of masks by healthy people in the community is not supported by the World Health Organisation. So mask distribution must be prioritised for health and care staff, as well as essential workers in community pharmacies and supermarkets who cannot avoid being within two metres of customers.
“Accessing tests is a particular concern for those working outside hospitals where they may have to drive for several hours to do so while unwell.
“The NHS started this pandemic with 100,000 vacancies and we must never forget the wellbeing needs of those who have given so much.”