‘Perfect storm’ of Covid cases and first flu wave could make clearing NHS backlog ‘very difficult’

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Rising Covid cases threaten the NHS’s commitment to eliminating the record NHS backlog, experts have warned.

The UKHSA said on Sunday that Covid hospitalizations are “quite likely” to exceed the spring peak, likely leading to a 2022 record.

Official data shows there are currently 11 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, up more than a third from the previous week. The BA.2 peak was around 20 per 100,000 at the end of March.

Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), told the BBC’s Sunday morning show: ‘It doesn’t look like the wave is over yet, so we expect cases of hospitalizations will increase and it is possible, very likely, that they will peak during the previous wave BA.2.

But Professor Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at Norwich Medical School, told the Telegraph that while Covid is “undoubtedly putting more pressure on the health service” he is more concerned about an early wave of flu, than the ‘UKHSA predicted this week.

“I fear that the flu, if it comes back this year, and I think the signs are that it will, will kill many more people than Covid killed in the last season,” he said. he declares.

“Since January 1 we have had just over 18,000 deaths in England with Covid on the death certificate.

“[Flu] could quite easily, in three or four months, exceed 20,000 deaths. If we have two waves [with Covid and flu]it would be a perfect storm, potentially.

“A significant challenge”

Professor Azeem Majeed, chair of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, told the Telegraph the double whammy could threaten the NHS’ plan to tackle its gargantuan backlog.

Last month, the NHS pledged to eliminate two-year waits for hospital treatment. The pandemic has seen the waiting list for treatment swell from 4.2 million to 6.4 million people.

“Any increase in Covid-19 puts more pressure on the NHS through people showing up in primary care, urgent care and as inpatients,” he said.

“I agree that the flu could be a significant challenge. This winter, a combination of lower flu immunity and increased social interaction could push flu rates up.

“It would also put additional pressure on the NHS, particularly if there was another big wave of Covid-19 in the winter.

“This will make it very difficult for the NHS to start clearing NHS waiting lists if it is also dealing with a high number of urgent flu and Covid-19 cases.”

Both Professor Majeed and Professor Hunter believe that vaccination against Covid and flu is absolutely essential. Despite the UKHSA’s warning of a flu season starting in September, there are currently no plans to start the annual vaccination program earlier than normal.

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