NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens and Chief Operating Officer Amanda Pritchard have issued a letter on the third phase of the NHS response to COVID-19.
In January 2020, the first phase of the NHS response to COVID-19 began as the pandemic was declared a level 4 national incident. In April, the NHS entered the second phase of the response to COVID-19, and a letter was issued providing instructions on restarting urgent services. This third letter:
- provides an update on the latest COVID national alert level
- sets out priorities for the rest of 2020/21
- outlines financial arrangements heading into Autumn as agreed with Government.
The letter states that, in June, the Government downgraded the alert level from level 4 to level 3. This decision was based on the current level of COVID-19-related demand on the NHS: the number of inpatients with COVID-19 nationwide has now fallen from a peak of 19,000 a day to around 900 a day. However, because of a number of local and regional outbreaks across the country, the alert level will remain under review.
For the rest of 2020/21, the letter states that ‘health services now need to redouble their focus on the needs of all other patients too, while recognising the new challenges of overcoming our current Covid-related capacity constraints’. Non-COVID services are asked to accelerate their return to near-normal activity in the ‘window of opportunity‘ before winter. Health services are also encouraged to prepare for winter, and both tasks are to take into account lessons learned during the pandemic.
Regarding financial arrangements and system working, the letter states: ‘To support restoration, and enable continued collaborative working, current financial arrangements for CCGs and trusts will largely be extended to cover August and September 2020. The intention is to move towards a revised financial framework for the latter part of 2020/21, once this has been finalised with Government… Working across systems, including NHS, local authority and voluntary sector partners, has been essential for dealing with the pandemic and the same is true in recovery. As we move towards comprehensive ICS coverage by April 2021, all ICSs and STPs should embed and accelerate this joint working’.