Lord Andrew Adonis says Tony Blair ‘is never wrong’
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The Tony Blair Institute published a paper entitled “Three Months to Save the NHS”. It warned that the health service is “on the brink of disaster”, urging the Government to “immediately prepare for an existential crisis this winter”. The report pointed out long NHS waiting times, saying that “unprecedented demand” will cause a “winter crisis”. It said: “[People] across the UK are waiting for elective treatments, accident-and-emergency (A&E) waiting times are almost at an all-time high and cancer targets, among others, are not being met.
“More than 300,000 people are on the waiting list for cancer treatment in England, with nearly 40,000 waiting more than 62 days after a GP referral for suspected cancer.”
It warned that this winter would be the “perfect storm, resulting in unprecedented demand and reduced capacity, which will combine to create the worst winter crisis in the NHS’s history.”
The institute called on the Government to extend the Covid-19 and flu vaccine strategies to everyone over the age of 18, not just the over-50s this autumn.
It also called for mandatory mask wearing to be considered for the colder months.
This comes as Covid-19 infections remain high in the UK.
A total of 3.8million people in private households are estimated to have had the virus in the week up to 14 July, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.
The Tony Blair Institute’s report said: “At times of high Covid-19 transmission, or when there is an elevated general risk (such as when a new variant emerges), or a higher likelihood of severe outcomes (when an outbreak coincides with the flu season), the Government should be prepared to reinstate the mask requirements that were in place.
“This would mean mandatory mask wearing on public transport and most indoor public venues (excluding hospitality) during the winter.
“The Government should reserve the capability to activate such a plan quickly, if necessary.”
It added: “The Government must do whatever it takes to support the NHS through this period and act immediately to avert an unmitigated disaster.
“Failure to do so will result in the breakdown of the NHS as we know it, with a collapse in vital services and a rise in adverse outcomes for patients.”
However, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock rejected the claim that boosters should be extended to under-50s.
He told the i: “In a pandemic, you need to vaccinate all to stop the spread – there’s a social benefit to vaccinating all as it prevents lockdown.
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“In an endemic not pandemic scenario – like now – I think it’s reasonable to return to the pre-pandemic norm.”
Meanwhile, interim chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery said: “Covid-19 boosters this autumn will be vital in reducing the risk of serious illness which would pile on the pressure on the NHS at a time when services are expected to come under severe strain.
“Recent drops in Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions are encouraging but with the potential for future waves this winter, trust leaders remain vigilant about the need to protect vulnerable patients.
“It is right then that the booster programme is offered to those at higher risk of severe illness first given the risks posed by Covid-19.”
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