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NHS will be ‘decimated’ if lessons aren't learnt from Covid debacle, ministers warned

UNIONS have told the government to take responsibility for thousands of needless deaths from Covid-19 after warnings that the NHS will be “decimated” if lessons aren’t learnt from the pandemic.

At the launch of the People’s Covid Inquiry report today, expert panellist Professor Neena Modi said that Britain was “at a crossroads — whether it wants to go down a largely US model or retain the magnificent founding principles of the National Health Service,” as she pointed to the devastating impact of outsourcing during the pandemic.

She spoke out as the latest Office for National Statistics figures revealed that 170,816 people have died with Covid-19 on their death certificate in the United Kingdom, and that there have been over 78,000 excess deaths (deaths over the expected number based on the average for the last five years) in private homes in England and Wales since the pandemic began.

Ms Modi, professor of neonatal medicine at Imperial College London and president of the UK Medical Women’s Federation, said ministers should learn that “throwing money at a problem” would not solve it if they ignored expertise.

She pointed out that ventilator contracts were given to manufacturers of vacuum tubes and that fashion industry companies were tasked with producing personal protective equipment — with shabby results.

NHS consultant radiologist, author and British Medical Association council member Dr Jacky Davis said the government had ignored health workers and turned to the private sector.

“They wasted millions on private beds that were never used, they bypassed NHS laboratories, preferring untended contracts to private companies,” she said. 

“The pandemic was predictable and should have been predicted. The death toll was avoidable as other countries have shown.”

The GMB union, which gave evidence to the inquiry, said that the government had “let people down badly.”

National secretary Rehana Azam said: “Despite repeated warnings from GMB, they were far too slow to protect workers. Ministers failed to grasp the scale of their own incompetence — as a result there were thousands of needless deaths. The administration must take responsibility for that.”

Staff and bed shortages need to be addressed urgently, the report’s authors said, or the NHS risks being “decimated.”

They sounded the alarm as Labour’s new shadow health secretary Wes Streeting warned that cancer cases would go undetected if ministers didn’t urgently produce a plan to deal with the NHS backlog.

There are currently 5.83 million people waiting for care — and the National Audit Office believes that the figure could be 12 million by 2025.

Mr Streeting referred to his own treatment for kidney cancer, telling LBC radio: “When it comes to cancer treatment and cancer outcomes, timing is everything.

“I’m very worried that we’ve got an NHS backlog approaching six million already.

“In my case the only reason I knew I had kidney cancer, the only reason I’m talking to you this morning cancer-free is because I have kidney stones. In a scan for something entirely different, my cancer was detected.

“In that big NHS backlog, for all sorts of operations, there will undoubtedly be cancer cases that will go undetected.

“That’s why we urgently need from the government an elective care recovery plan to get those NHS waiting lists down.”

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