Commenting on the publication of the Health and Social Care Committee’s report: Delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond, Ruth Thorlby, Assistant Director for Policy at the Health Foundation, said:
'The committee is right to draw attention to the backlog of care and the strain this is putting on patients. The government needs to ensure that both the NHS and social care services get the funding they need over the next few months, to help reduce waiting times, keep non-COVID services running and make sure that no patients lose out on care because they are struggling to get appointments or are concerned about being exposed to the virus. We know from our recent polling* that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds – one of the groups worst affected by the pandemic – are less likely to have used NHS services since lockdown.
'The committee’s recommendation of weekly testing for NHS staff to keep non-COVID services running as COVID-19 cases rise is logical, but it is far from clear that testing capacity exists to enable this. The government committed to weekly testing of care home staff earlier this month but testing in social care has been beset with problems, with reports of tests in some areas either unavailable or results delivered too late.
'Even if weekly testing of NHS staff is possible, it is only one part of the equation: social distancing, use of PPE, and other measures to maintain COVID-free zones within hospitals, will be needed alongside this. The reality is that the NHS will be operating with reduced capacity as we approach the winter months, and there may need to be difficult decisions made about what services to prioritise.'
Notes to editors
A recent Health Foundation briefing examines how changes in how NHS services are delivered and used have been accelerated by COVID-19.
* Polling data from the Health Foundation and Ipsos MORI conducted in July found that concerns about using hospitals is greater among some of the groups worst affected by COVID-19, with more than one in four (28%) people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and more than a third (34%) of people with a disability saying they would feel uncomfortable about using their local hospital, compared with just over one in five overall (22%).
People from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are also less likely to report having used a health service since the beginning of lockdown (36% compared to 42% of the population as a whole), and are more likely to have considered using a service for a health issue but decided not to (9% compared with 5% overall).
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