Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid’s forecast that Covid cases could top 100,000 daily, as restrictions ease, will leave already exhausted NHS staff buckling under the ‘unbearable’ pressure, Unite the union warned today (Tuesday 6 July).

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that there were serious questions to be asked over what it described as the ‘gung-ho’ easing of restrictions from 19 July unveiled by the prime minister yesterday (Monday 5 July).

Unite said that the pressures, for example, on the biomedical scientist workforce who test for Covid are intolerable, with holidays being curtailed to meet the expected surge in demand for testing.

Extra funding was needed urgently to meet the increase in cases and hospitalisations as the successful vaccination programme had not completely broken the link with people getting infected.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “We have serious questions about Boris Johnson’s gung-ho approach to the easing of restrictions from 19 July. All bets have been placed on the vaccination programme holding the line, but there is no guarantee that this will be a completely successful strategy.

“There must be a review to the decision to end social distancing and mask wearing in hospitals, clinics and other NHS buildings in order to protect the public and our members working in the health service.

“Our members have been fighting coronavirus for the last 16 months and they are exhausted. An increase in hospitalisations which will follow from 100,000 infections a day will add to their immense workloads. Already we are hearing reports from our members of holidays being curtailed to meet the expected demand.

“A massive cash injection is required to tackle the pressures on the NHS this summer and running into the autumn - and also to ameliorate the ever-present ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis throughout the health service. The NHS has an estimated 100,000 vacancies, including 40,000 nursing posts.

“Javid himself has already conceded that seven million people have been put off getting NHS treatments for their problems during the pandemic, so where are the resources to get to grips with this daunting backlog? There are still serious questions that the government has so far yet to address.”

Unite, which represents tens of thousands of public transport workers, has already called on the government to reverse proposals to end the requirement for masks to be worn on buses and trains.


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.