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Covid-19: the NHS feels “abandoned” by ministers

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Inisters have been accused of abandoning the NHS as it faces mounting pressure from Covid-19.

Here your questions are answered about the current state of affairs in the NHS.

– What was said?

The NHS Confederation has said very high rates of Covid-19 infections are having a ‘major impact’ on the health service, which faces pressures it would see in a ‘bad winter’ until spring .

The member body, which represents health organisations, called on the government to reconsider its Living with Covid plan, as it said ministers risked ‘dropping out’ of the NHS if they did not intervene.

– So how many Covid-19 patients are being treated?

The number of people in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 appears to have stabilized just above the peak reached at the start of the year.

A total of 20,331 patients were registered on April 7, according to the latest government figures.

This figure is broadly unchanged from previous days and is slightly above the January 2022 peak of 20,050.

But that is well below the record of 39,256 reached during the second wave of the virus in January 2021.

There is a similar trend in England, where the number of patients stood at 16,366 on April 8 – again, largely unchanged in recent days and just below the January 2022 peak of 17,120.

Different patterns are evident across regions, with patient levels rising in the Midlands, falling in the South West of England and plateauing elsewhere.

– But are all these people being treated for Covid-19?

Almost three in five hospital patients in England (58%) who have tested positive for Covid-19 are mainly being treated for something else – the highest level yet.

The proportion of patients hospitalized “with” Covid-19 rather than “for” it has steadily increased since the end of last year, when the figure was around 25%.

But any patients who test positive for coronavirus must be treated separately from other people in hospital, adding to the pressures facing NHS staff trying to clear a record backlog of routine treatments.

– What about the situation elsewhere in the hospitals?

Many parts of the NHS are feeling the strain of current pressures.

In addition to treating large volumes of Covid-19 patients, there are high rates of staff absences due to the virus, full hospitals and high demands for emergency care.

Too many ambulances are waiting longer than they should to “hand over” patients to the hospital, leading to ambulance queues outside hospitals and longer wait times for people in the community who called 999 for emergency medical help.

In the week starting March 28, 21,432 delays of half an hour or more were recorded across all hospital trusts in England.

There are also problems inside hospitals, as many A&E departments struggle to see, treat, and admit or discharge patients within the allotted time.

The NHS Confederation said that in the past week alone 20 emergency departments in England have been forced to turn away patients as they issued ‘diversions’ due to being overfull.

Meanwhile, the NHS is set to deal with the backlog of care, with more than six million people awaiting hospital treatment in England alone.

The NHS Confederation questioned whether targets for tackling the record backlog were realistic in the current environment.

– What about NHS workers?

Data released on April 7 showed that staff absences at NHS hospitals in England due to Covid-19 are at their highest level since late January, with numbers continuing to climb in most areas.

Absences averaged 28,560 per day the previous week – the equivalent of 3% of the workforce – compared to 27,571 the previous week, but still below the 45,736 (5% of the workforce) reached at the beginning of January .

– What does the NHS Confederation want the government to do?

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

Medium-term plans must also be put in place, including better ventilation of public spaces, he added.

The NHS Confederation has also urged ministers to reconsider asking the NHS to foot the bill for Covid-19 testing for staff – which would cost the NHS “several hundred million pounds” that are taken out of patient care.