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Covid-19: Be realistic about elective recovery plan, say leaders

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o208 (Published 25 January 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:o208

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Re: Covid-19: Be realistic about elective recovery plan, say leaders

Dear Editor,

As of 8th February, we now have a recovery plan of sorts. Various explanations for delay were put forward, but a chancellor reluctant to commit money to a dying administration probably tops the list. This would also be consistent with Rishi Sunak going from ‘the NHS must have everything it needs’ at the start of the pandemic, to saying that roll out of the life-saving booster programme would inevitably involve cuts in budgets elsewhere. Furthermore, plans for the only six of 48 promised new hospitals to be funded were called in as too expensive, and now look unlikely to go forward any time soon.

Unfortunately, the new ‘plan’ isn’t really a plan, lacks sufficient investment and fails to address workforce issues, without which promised improvements simply can’t happen. Mental health, GP services and urgent and emergency care are not covered, all of which are in dire trouble. The 5,000 beds closed during the pandemic are not being reopened and more cash is being directed to private sector providers. Cancer patients have been promised a return to pre-pandemic levels of service, at which point targets had actually been missed for five years – a ‘war launched on cancer’ after the NHS has been disarmed!

It is time for staff and public to give a clear message to government that this is simply unacceptable. Over 40 organisations have come together under a new campaign banner of ‘SOS NHS’. This is demanding an immediate down payment of £20bn to initiate urgent repair processes, pay staff properly and invest long term in a publicly funded and delivered health and care service. The 26th of February is a national day of action with events being held in many towns and cities.

Competing interests: I am co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public

08 February 2022
John Puntis
retired consultant paediatrician
Leeds