Public behaviour and understanding most important weapon against COVID-19: Responding to the Government’s announcement about new three-tiered lockdown rules in England, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“We welcome the much-needed clarity the Government’s new three-tiered system will hopefully give the public on their local restrictions and freedoms. There now needs to be a concerted and continued effort to ensure all communities understand what is expected of them so that we can protect the NHS and support frontline staff to do their vital jobs in caring for us. Our members in the worst affected areas and especially those designated as Tier 3 will need particular support from politicians and regulators.
“Without a vaccine or cure and with our national test and trace system continuing to be riddled with problems, public behaviour and understanding is our single most important weapon.
“We have heard from the Government how quickly the virus is spreading and given the delay from infections translating into hospital admissions, worryingly the worst is yet to come.
“While we have been given this sobering warning, we are in a different place to where we were in March with the Nightingale hospitals on standby, PPE confirmed for health and social care services over winter, treatments for coronavirus on stream, and different parts of the NHS working together like never before.
“But the stakes are also higher as we head into winter, which is a typically very challenging time for the NHS and as leaders tackle the treatment backlog and remain adamant that another national ban on carrying out routine procedures must be avoided.
“Frontline staff are doing everything they can and have brought back many of the services that had to be put on hold in the first wave, but because of the way the virus is accelerating we run the risk of again having to make difficult decisions about what services we can provide. Politicians will need to play their part in backing NHS staff in the very highest risk geographies as they make the difficult decisions about prioritising COVID and their most urgent patients.
“Local leaders will be encouraged by the commitment to introduce regular testing for health and care staff, including those who do not have symptoms but we have been here before where these warm words do not consistently reflect reality. The NHS is facing a turbulent time ahead and so, if we are to really reduce the impact of this terrible disease over the coming months, we must remember that any test is only as good as how quickly it can be accessed and how quickly the results can be returned.”