Responding to today’s Downing Street press briefing, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“Two nurses and two healthcare assistants have died from Covid-19, four doctors have died in the last week. The impact on their families is impossible to describe.
“These are our frontline troops in an unforgiving war against an unseen enemy. The NHS is a family, and this is a devastating time for everyone on the frontline. It is difficult to express the degree of fear but also the overwhelming commitment of their colleagues and friends.
“The virus will kill more staff both in the NHS and in social care – everyone involved in care is putting themselves at risk which is why we all need to do everything we can to support them and everyone who is fighting this relentless battle.
“We do now have better guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) supported by all the main scientific and health bodies, but many staff are frightened and as employers we must do everything we can to make sure no-one is sent into battle without proper protection. We have been concerned that community staff, family doctors and the forgotten army of staff in social care have not thus far been given the gear or the guidance they need. We do not doubt the sincerity or commitment of those organising this at a national level nor the scale of the challenges they face but let us all focus on the whole workforce.
“Testing remains a real challenge. It is not a panacea and the government is absolutely right to say a bad test is worse than no test. For us the immediate challenge is establishing a testing regime that releases NHS staff from quarantine by testing them and their families. Expanding testing capacity is essential – to identify patients who have, to identify staff who don’t and to establish how fast it spreading and to whom.
“But the most critical factor, the thing that will matter most, is how we as nation behave. If we follow the social distancing instructions we will prevail – if we don’t we won’t.”