What does the Omicron winter crisis mean for the NHS? | News


Throughout this pandemic, the government has claimed it’s had one priority above all others: to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed. But two years into the fight against Covid, the service appears in some places at breaking point. Staff are exhausted, and tens of thousands of them are off sick.

At a busy hospital in south Wales, Dr Laura McLleland, describes how colleagues are bracing for the worst of the current wave amid an avalanche of staff absences.

With the government is beset by questions and inquiries over its own behaviour during the pandemic, it’s being forced to confront the reality of a health service nearing capacity. And while Omicron has proven milder than other variants for most people who catch it, for hospitals the situation is severe.

The Guardian’s health policy editor, Denis Campbell, tells Hannah Moore that the current winter crisis has resulted in record numbers of hospital trusts declaring “critical incidents” and highlights the danger of operating a health service so close to capacity. The government has pledged an extra £30bn over the next three years to help clear a post-Covid backlog, but will the frailties of the service exposed by the pandemic get the serious, long-term attention they need?

Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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