- Amanda Pritchard told MPs the NHS had avoided being overwhelmed last winter
- She says healthcare has never ended in a pandemic
- Sajid Javid told MPs, there is ‘huge pressure’ on healthcare in England
The head of the NHS said today that the health service was never overwhelmed by Covid during the peak of the pandemic.
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard told MPs to expand critical care, introduce new treatments and roll out a vaccine to save wards from being exhausted in the past year and a half.
However, medics working on the frontline during the first and second waves immediately slammed their boss, accusing him of ‘gaslighting’.
Mrs Pritchard also warned that the NHS is certainly in for a ‘tough winter’ and the rise in Covid-infected patients will impact how much other, planned care can be taken.
She suggested that the pressure on healthcare could lead to thousands more hospital treatment cancellations. More than 1.5 million NHS ops were canceled or delayed due to the chaos of the pandemic.
His comments were echoed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who told MPs there is ‘enormous pressure’ on healthcare in England.
Mr Javid acknowledged there is a ‘shortage’ of 999 call handlers after former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt raised the issue in the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, paramedics also warned that it may be ‘normal’ to wait six hours for an ambulance this winter.
The College of Paramedics claimed that ambulances have been forced to wait outside hospitals as the A&E wards were overcrowded, and warned that as winter demand increased, problems would escalate.
Meanwhile, Labor warned of a ‘winter crisis of suffering for patients’.
Amanda Pritchard (right) tells lawmakers that expanding critical care, introducing new treatments and introducing vaccines has caused hospitals to be exhausted over the past year and a half. Sajid Javid (left) admitted there is a ‘shortage’ of 999 call handlers after former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt raised the issue in the House of Commons.
Asked about her appointment to the Health and Social Care Select Committee, Mrs Pritchard said she was proud that the healthcare service had avoided being overwhelmed at the height of the pandemic.
She said: ‘I have worked for the NHS for 20 years and I am very proud to be a part of the NHS and have never really been in the last few years.
‘I think the report that your committee has produced has certainly made me very proud of what the NHS has achieved over the past two years.
‘The way critical care services were pitched and expanded, the pace of new treatments such as dexamethasone, the rollout of the vaccine program – meant the NHS was not overwhelmed.
‘And we saw that sadly not every country was in that position.’
His comments sparked fury on social media from NHS nurses and doctors, who claimed the NHS was still overwhelmed.
Surgical nurse Sarah Angela said: ‘Before Covid the NHS was overwhelmed. Covid made it worse. Now we are hanging by a thread.’
And global health nurse Mark Robinson said: ‘After working as a nurse and leading the wellbeing and physiological safety for the NHS during past Covid waves, I beg to differ.
‘More government gaslighting of hard working NHS staff.’
The six-hour ambulance waiting to be ‘common’ this winter
A paramedic has warned that patients waiting at least six hours for an ambulance this winter will return to “normal”.
The UK has been facing a ‘sad’ for months amid reports of increasing waits for A&E care. People who have had a heart attack or stroke are most likely to be affected.
The warning comes as health services across the country see delays of four to six hours in receiving patients, an increasing number of ambulances waiting outside hospitals and a backlog of 999 calls.
Richard Webber, a paramedic and spokesman for the College of Paramedics, said: ‘This problem has been bad for some time, hospitals have become so busy.
‘Patients are being admitted and what is happening is that they cannot take them directly to A&E, so there have been ambulance cabs waiting to be dropped off outside hospitals.
“Our members are reporting delays of four to six hours in reaching people, which means 15 ambulances can wait outside hospitals with patients inside.
This also creates a backlog of 999 calls. I’m talking about (up to) 300 calls to a service handling service, leaving people waiting at home potentially needing serious medical attention.
‘Therefore everything is taking longer; Employees are dealing with three or four incidents every shift, when they usually do as many as eight.’
During the selection committee meeting Mrs Pritchard was also asked whether the NHS had enough 999 call handlers.
Mr Hunt, chairman of the committee, said he had heard ‘anecdotal reports of 999 calls being wasted for too long, sometimes as long as 10 minutes, which is evident if someone has had a cardiac arrest for too long’.
Mrs Amanda Pritchard said there has been a ‘very significant increase in demand’ and part of the answer was ‘recruiting and training additional call handlers to respond to that increase in demand’.
When pressed on the issue, he said, ‘we need to have more capacity in the process part of handling that call’.
She added: ‘This is part of the £55 million we have given to ambulance services to help them invest in additional resilience over the winter period now.’
Speaking in the Commons after grilling Mrs Pritchard, Mr Hunt warned about the pressure in emergency care and a lack of 999 call handlers.
Mr Javid replied: ‘The NHS lacks – [Mr Hunt] Mentioned 999 callers, 111 calls at this time are also under great pressure and emergency care in general, including ambulance services.
‘There is a significant amount of support…