NHS chiefs call for return of masks and limits on indoor mixing

11 April 2022, 11:24

The NHS Confederation wants a return to mask use
The NHS Confederation wants a return to mask use. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Health chiefs want the government to reconsider its 'living with Covid plan' and are urging a return to mask use, accusing No10 of abandoning "any interest in Covid whatsoever."

The NHS Confederation is warning the Government that Easter in the NHS "is as bad as any winter".

They want people to wear "the best possible" face masks in public, a new push for people to ensure they are vaccinated, and medium-term plans for making sure public spaces are well-ventilated.

The membership body, which represents healthcare organisations, said Government messaging to the public could "mislead the public and discourage them to take steps to reduce transmission, contributing to the very high rates of Covid-19".

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It called for "mitigating actions" to help the NHS which is grappling with 20,000 Covid patients, high rates of staff absences, full hospitals and severe demands on emergency care.

"The brutal reality for staff and patients is that this Easter in the NHS is as bad as any winter," said Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation.

"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.

"NHS leaders and their teams feel abandoned by the Government and they deserve better."

The organisation said that in the last week alone 20 emergency departments in England have been forced to turn patients away as they issued "diverts" due to being too full.

The NHS Confederation called into question whether plans to tackle the record backlog of care are realistic.

It called for stronger messages to the public on how to reduce transmission, including wearing the best possible face masks, and urging people to get vaccinated.

There also needs to be medium-term plans put into place, including better ventilation in public spaces, it added.

Meanwhile, ministers should reconsider asking the NHS to foot the bill for Covid-19 tests for staff - estimated to cost the NHS "several hundred million pounds" which is being taken away from patient care.

A spokesperson for Department of Health and Social Care said: "The success of our vaccination and antivirals programmes 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.

"We are on track to deliver 50,000 more nurses by 2024, there are over 4,300 more doctors compared to last year, and we are investing hundreds of millions in growing the workforce."