What are the imminent threats to the NHS this fall? | UK News

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Health Secretary Steve Barclay has warned the NHS will face serious challenges this fall. We look at the growing pressures on the health care system.

covid

As the UK emerges from a wave of Covid, driven by Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants, experts have predicted at least one more will hit in autumn and winter.

It is not yet known which variant or variants such a wave will involve, but ensuring that those eligible have received their fall booster will be crucial in order to keep levels of severe illness low.

It can be a challenge. Despite the spike in infections over the summer and a booster program in the spring, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) noted that at the end of June, 17.5% of people aged 75 and over had not received a vaccine in the past six months, leaving them at higher risk of serious illness.

Flu

Australia has had a particularly bad flu season, with the virus hitting earlier and harder than usual, raising fears the northern hemisphere will face a similar rise in infections later this year.

The situation is partly due to very low levels of influenza in recent years due to lockdowns and other measures, which has led to lower immunity in the population, leaving people more vulnerable to influenza.

Promoting flu vaccination this winter to all eligible people will be important in reducing both the number of flu hospitalizations and the wider pressures on the NHS.

Cost of living crisis

As energy and food costs rise, experts have warned the NHS could come under additional pressure. One concern is that cold homes could lead to increased illness in people with conditions exacerbated by the cold, such as heart disease and chronic lung disease.

An inability to eat properly can also affect the body’s ability to stay warm, with some experts even warning there could be an increase in cases of malnutrition, especially among children.

Labor shortages

According to the Commons Health and Social Services cross-party selection committee, the NHS is facing ‘the biggest workforce crisis’ in its history, with estimates from the Nuffield Trust suggesting that in England alone, there could be up to 50,000 vacancies for nurses. 12,000 for doctors.

Additionally, staffing shortages in social services have led to problems getting patients out of hospital – a situation that has contributed to ambulances spending hours queuing outside hospitals waiting for beds for their patients and crowding into A&E.

While Barclay has emphasized the need to hire staff from overseas, some have raised concerns about the possibility of ethical issues, warning that this approach could deprive developing countries of their own staff. highly qualified.

Pay

As the government recently revealed details of a pay rise for NHS staff, the figures involved have been criticized, with the British Medical Association noting that the offer of a 4.5% reward to some doctors this year is well below the rate of inflation, while young doctors – who have a 2% annual salary increase, agreed before the pandemic – no longer get a raise.

Additionally, senior doctors are locked in a battle over tax-free pension contribution limits — a situation that has led some consultants to turn down shifts or even retire early to avoid hefty tax bills.

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