NHS leaders call for delay to removing restrictions

A recent poll has found that nearly two-thirds of health leaders surveyed do not think the remaining national lockdown restrictions in England should be lifted on 21 June.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected to announce a delay on 14 June, the NHS Confederation poll, carried out on the week beginning 7 June, found that 63 per cent of health leaders in England do not think the national restrictions should be lifted on 21 June, with 30 per cent answering yes, and six per cent stating that they did not know.

Official figures show that daily cases of coronavirus are now at their highest since February, with a 45 per cent increase in the last week and the more transmissible Delta variant confirmed as the dominant strain in the country.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Health leaders are very aware of the damaging effects that prolonged social restrictions could have on the nation’s physical health and mental well-being. Yet, according to our survey the majority of NHS leaders are concerned about the risks that lifting prematurely could have on the NHS’s ability to cope at a time when staff are working so hard to recover.

“There is a lot at stake, both for the NHS and our wider society so our message to the Prime Minister is simple – if there is any doubt about lifting the final restrictions on 21 June, don’t do it yet as the impact could be devastating. It would be better to take action now than regret the consequences.

“We are far from the brutal peak of the pandemic that we were in at the start of the year thanks to the national lockdown, our infection control processes, and the success of our vaccination programme. But the situation is changing day by day, which is why a data-driven approach is so important.

“Cases of coronavirus are rising again and many of our members have said that it would be better for more adults to be vaccinated against the disease and for more to be understood about the Delta variant before we proceed any further with the final unlock. Any increase in Covid-19 cases will disrupt hospital services – but also create extra pressure for ambulance services, community care, primary care and mental health care at a time when they are working so hard to restore services and meet high levels of non-Covid demand.”

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