Writing to the Prime Minister, NHS Providers have produced a detailed briefing of the four tests that NHS trust leaders must believe have been passed before the current pandemic restrictions around social contact can be safely relaxed.
These four key goals are:
- First, Covid-19 case numbers and the national R rate must drop significantly to prevent a sudden resurgence of infection once infections are eased, as was seen last autumn.
- Second, NHS capacity needs to have returned to levels where the service can treat all the patients it needs to.
- Third, the vaccination campaign needs to be sufficiently advanced to provide adequate levels of protection and avoid unnecessary death and patient harm.
- Fourth, we must have a robust and effective strategy in place to rapidly identify and control future outbreaks from the variant strains that now pose the greatest threat.
Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said: “The government will publish its lockdown exit roadmap in less than a week’s time.
“NHS trust leaders are clear, as they have been throughout the pandemic, that the approach should be to remain cautious. They want to focus on data, not just dates, with four evidence-based tests met before lifting restrictions.
"The evidence on Covid-19 cases, NHS capacity, progress with vaccinations and readiness to combat Covid-19 variants all show that it is much too early to start lifting restrictions.
"Covid-19 case numbers are still far too high.
"The NHS is still at full stretch and trust leaders believe this will continue for at least another six to eight weeks.
"Despite amazing progress, we have only vaccinated the top four Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunology priority groups, leaving significant risk of death and patient harm.
"There is a lot more to do to ensure Test and Trace is fully ready to combat the new variants that are now our greatest threat.
"We have had the debate about when and how quickly to lift restrictions several times before. Each time those arguing for a rapid relaxation were wrong and we had to reimpose restrictions, losing unnecessary lives and causing unnecessary long-term patient harm in the process.
"If this is to be the last national lockdown, we have to learn the lessons from last year and take a cautious approach."