NHS leaders have accused the government of “abandoning interest” in Covid and “washing its hands of responsibility” as the NHS suffers through a “brutal” Spring.
The government has been asked to set out a stronger stance on Covid to help protect the NHS from the current surge in Covid hospital admissions while it deals with emergency pressures that are as bad as levels experienced during winter.
The call comes after more than 20,000 hospital beds in England were occupied by Covid positive patients last week, while weekly staff absences due to the virus hit a 10-week high.
Amid Covid pressures, hospitals are also facing extreme emergency pressures, with 20 A&Es having to divert ambulances, and hospitals across the country declaring new critical incidents.
On Thursday The Independent revealed ambulance delays have become worse than they’ve ever been with stroke and suspected heart attack patients waiting four hours for an ambulance which should come within 18 minutes.
NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals in England said on Monday there is “clear disconnect” between the government’s “Living with Covid” plans and the pressures facing the NHS.
NHS confederation chief Matthew Taylor, said: “The brutal reality for staff and patients is that this Easter in the NHS is as bad as any winter. But instead of the understanding and support NHS staff received during 2020 and 2021, we have a government that seems to want to wash its hands of responsibility for what is occurring in plain sight in local services up and down the country.
“No 10 has seemingly abandoned any interest in Covid whatsoever. The Treasury has taken bites out of the already very tight NHS budget, while soaring inflation means the NHS settlement is now worth less. It is now unclear that anyone in the center of government feels the unfolding NHS crisis is their responsibility.
“NHS leaders and their teams feel abandoned by the government and they deserve better.”
The calls come after NHS England revealed it had been asked to take out hundreds of millions from the NHS central budget to cover the shortfall in Covid testing left after the government wound down the Test and Trace programme.
NHS Conderation has asked for the government to reconsider this request for the NHS to absorb testing costs.
It has also called on the government to set out “stronger” public messages on Covid precautions and to be “realistic” about what the NHS can deliver amid high Covid levels, emergency care demand and rising planned care backlog.
“Covid is far from over as ministers appear to want to believe and we urge them to get a grip on this – both for the current spike in infections but also for potential future ones,” Mr Taylor said.
A spokesperson for Department of Health and Social Care said: “The success of our vaccination and antivirals programs alongside increased public understanding on managing risk means we can start living with Covid – with public health guidance and free testing focused on groups who are most at risk from the virus.
“We are incredibly grateful to NHS staff and we have set out our plan to tackle the Covid backlog and deliver long-term recovery and reform, backed by our record multibillion-pound investment over the next three years.”