The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.
On the day Boris Johnson announced an enormous lifting of social distancing restrictions, parts of the NHS were planning for a second wave of coronavirus.
Organisations across the South East are now preparing for a worst case scenario of a peak two and a half times what we have seen so far. They are insistent that this is just contingency planning – and is not based on any particular intelligence or forecast.
But this planning seems to be mirrored in other NHS regions, and the South East seems to be expecting challenges to services for at least the next year even with lower peaks of infection. Governing body papers to Sussex clinical commissioning groups also reveal the uncertainty over timing – the next peak could be July but it could also be next March.
So as Mr Johnson urges the country to come out of “hibernation,” many in the NHS will be wrestling with the prospect of dealing with a second wave while also trying to restart normal services. Hibernation must sound like an attractive option to many NHS managers faced with juggling the two.
Meanwhile, a few new details about the future of the government’s covid-19 testing strategy have been revealed in a framework notice posted on Tenders Electronic Daily. Officials think the five-pillared scheme, which will be managed by Public Health England in collaboration with the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care, will cost around £5bn over up to four years.
It’s a covid-19-centred version of PHE’s existing microbiology framework, which was valued between £80m and £120m when launched in 2016 — an indication of the mammoth nature of the task ahead.
And this isn’t the only major covid-19 testing programme expected to launch soon. The Office of National Statistics is also running a £750m population survey to track the spread of the disease in the population over the next three years. It’s yet more evidence officials believe this disease will be with us for some time to come.