Uncertain times

by Caroline Clarke

22 May 2020

The NHS faces a planning challenge and needs to start understanding what the new isolationist era means for productivity and waiting times

I don’t know about anyone else, but this ‘post Covid peak limbo’ feels a bit strange. Some of us have had an incredibly intense period of our careers. We’ve all been in lockdown and the UK feels like it’s waking up. 

Our hospitals are getting busier, the public is gradually coming out into the open (actually, I’ve just cycled through north London where everyone is out in the open and partying, so cancel the ‘gradual’,  it’s like a massive party in the park).

Various data models show different scenarios for how the virus is going to behave and frankly it’s really confused and confusing. It’s difficult to plan when there are so many uncertainties.  There’s no point using ranges, because the ranges generated are enormous.

The best we can do is make educated guesses (or hypothesise) and work from there. And as we prepare to restart services, we’ve got to estimate how much less productive we will be in the new isolationist era, and what impact that will make on our waiting times.

In my part of London we’ve agreed to manage the waiting list across the sector, meaning in theory that we can make best use of our capacity to treat patients most in need.  The reality is that, even when we’ve done this, there will be many, many patients waiting a very long time for some procedures. And, as the NHS, we have to find a way of dealing with that. It’s going to be tough on a lot of people, and we have to prepare for that.

Meanwhile I’ve been listening to lots of singer/songwriter Betty Wright, who sadly died last week. I saw her play last year at what must have been one of her last shows.  Amazing energy.  RIP Betty.  What an amazing Clean Up Woman.

That’s all for the weekly words. Back soon with something more considered.  Stay well.