Opinion | Britain’s National Health Service: How We’re Fighting Covid

To the Editor:

Re “U.K. Hospitals Struggle to Cope With New Variant” (news article, Jan. 22):

You are wrong about Britain’s National Health Service and our response to Covid-19. To suggest that the pressures of this wave are a peculiarly British issue ignores that the Netherlands is having to transfer patients across the country, Belgian patients have had non-urgent surgery canceled and Spanish hotel beds are being used for patients.

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson observed, the new virus variant explained why the N.H.S. “is under such intense pressure.”

To prepare for additional coronavirus patients, the N.H.S. delivered a 50 percent increase in critical care beds. Frontline clinicians and other staff members have cared for more than 300,000 patients with Covid, and contrary to your suggestion, the number of N.H.S. staff is up, by 50,000.

We also supported research that identified the first effective Covid-19 treatment, dexamethasone, now used worldwide, and administered the world’s first Covid-19 vaccination.

Over the winter, routine operation waits actually fell three months in a row, and we treated three non-Covid patients for every person infected with the virus.

Even as the virus again spread at the end of last year, and Covid admissions fast outstripped the first wave as a result of the new variant, England’s emergency departments were dealing with 50 percent more emergency cases than last April, double the elective operations and three times as many checks for diseases like cancer.

Stephen Powis
The writer is the National Health Service’s medical director for England.

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