Jeremy Hunt reveals his "concern" about NHS hospitals coping this winter

30 June 2020, 17:09 | Updated: 30 June 2020, 17:41

By Fiona Jones

Health Select Committee Chair and former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told LBC there is "cause for concern" over how the NHS will cope in the autumn and winter months.

An NHS Providers survey found that in six months hospitals are only expecting to be between half and three quarters of their normal capacity - and even by winter hospitals are only expected to reach 80%, Mr Hunt said.

"We'll be going into winter in a very much weaker position and it is partly because you just can't treat as many people every day if doctors have to wear enormous amounts of PPE," he told Shelagh, "the social distancing requirements make it much harder."

The former Health Secretary told Shelagh that the government plans to enforce a new "call before you walk" A&E model to avoid crowded waiting rooms: "If it's life threatening you'd turn up at A&E as normal or dial 999, but for anything else you call 111 first, you book an appointment."

Shelagh then challenged Mr Hunt about Leicester, which yesterday officially became the first area of Britain to enter a local lockdown following a surge in coronavirus cases.

Mr Hunt told Shelagh Fogarty there is "cause for concern" for NHS hospitals this winter
Mr Hunt told Shelagh Fogarty there is "cause for concern" for NHS hospitals this winter. Picture: LBC

Leicester West MP Liz Kendall told Shelagh she still doesn't know how the spike has happened in Leicester, and Shelagh put it to Mr Hunt that this was "a failure of national to local communication."

Mr Hunt said that Dido Harding, who is heading up the test and trace system, said it would take until the end of June to set up proper communication between national team and local authorities.

He said Leicester's local lockdown is a "guinea pig" and conceded, "I hope it will be smoother next time."

He admitted, "I think hand on heart people inside government would say we should have been starting this test and trace localised system back in February but they are deadly serious about the right thing."

Shelagh countered that it is not hard for somebody in the Prime Minister's office to inform the Leicester MPs and leader of the council.

"Yes I take the point, I hope that's one of the lessons learned from this," Mr Hunt said, and said another lesson to learn is "putting local medics in the driving seat" when combatting the pandemic.

He also admitted that all the pandemic preparations were based on a pandemic flu model, not a pandemic SARS model, which he took some responsibility for, being the Health Secretary at the time of these decisions.

Moving forward, he said the UK must concentrate on tracking and tracing, and said there should be weekly or fortnightly testing of NHS workers.

However Jeremy Hunt and 330 other Conservative MPs opposed a motion that would have led to weekly testing of NHS workers and care staff six days ago.