THE NHS is facing an “exceptionally difficult” winter, even if Covid stays in check, warned Prof. Chris Whitty today.
England’s top doc said flu and other seasonal mistakes mean medical professionals will be inundated regardless of the pandemic.
However, he stressed that only a tiny amount needs to go wrong with the coronavirus for hospitals to buckle amid a flurry of cases.
In a dire forecast, he said, “I wish I could say there are sunlit highlands and that it will be fantastic by Christmas – but unfortunately it is not.”
Infection rates are around 40,000 a day, but vaccines have brought current hospital stays down to around 700 and deaths to around 100.
A vaccination campaign is currently underway for at-risk Brits to get their flu shot along with their Covid booster.
However, at the annual conference of the Royal College of GPs, Prof. Whitty sounded the alarm: “Regarding where Covid will go over the winter, I think that the winter as a whole is unfortunately exceptionally difficult for the NHS.
“That means, regardless of whether we have a relatively small but not trivial amount of Covid, or whether we actually have another increase in winter.”
He said the UK health service was on much better footing than it was last year and only “one extraordinary escape mutant variant” would blow a hole in progress.
However, he warned: “But we could certainly go up, we are only two or three times away from some really serious pressure on the NHS and it is already serious, but in fact it will be very difficult to deal with.
“So the margin of error is pretty small.”
He added that hoping to eradicate Covid completely this winter was an “impossible dream,” and said the NHS faces an “extraordinarily high task” in dealing with the backlog of deadlines accumulated during the lockdown have.
Health Minister Sajid Javid has warned the arrears could climb to as high as 14 million.
Prof. Whitty also defended politicians from critics who made “cheap shots” during the pandemic.
He said: “It is important that I don’t use it to beat up my colleagues in politics and politics.
“I think they really in all political parties – but the prime minister and the incumbent ministers obviously have responsibility – tried to understand the scientific advice and then they tried to figure out how to make a policy out of it that worked more. ” generally.”