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One crisis at a time: Why we must extend the transition period to let the NHS tackle Covid

11 Jun 2020 3 minute read
Swab test on a nursing home worker. Public domain.

Dr Gwyn Williams, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Swansea Bay University Health Board

This has been a strange time for the NHS. There was much concern before March about how we would manage to keep the UK supplied with all sorts of vital medicine and equipment after the end of the transition period and a fear that the remaining time left to negotiate all this was nowhere near long enough.

The complexity of NHS logistics really is mind-boggling, the machine having so many millions of different moving parts intricately entwined with Ireland, France, Germany and other EU nations. It is pretty much impossible to see how things could be reorganised without some form of predicted or unpredicted consequence give an infinite timeline let alone a few months.

The great fear, of course, was running out of some vital piece of equipment or medicine with disastrous consequences for our patients.

Then came Covid-19. Coronavirus has been the single biggest challenge to the delivery of NHS services since its founding. We have been asked to reduce footfall as much as possible in order to release staff to work on Covid-19 wards and man field hospitals, and this on top of our own staff becoming unwell and having to quarantine themselves and their families due to having developed symptoms.

Most departments are running essential services only with routine work being delayed until the crisis has abated. Waiting lists are rising daily for both elective operations and clinic appointments. We are all drafting plans on how to get back to normal when coronavirus is deemed under control but the task is gigantic and there is still no end in sight.

It is a frightful task. People are coming to harm through a lack of normal services being in place at present and there will be an awful lot of mess to clear up at the end. If only we knew when the end would be.



It is difficult to envisage having to deal with an urgent sorting out of our EU supply problem on top of all this. As soldiers of the NHS we will have to march off to the next war immediately after having to deal with the widespread massive disruption of coronavirus.

It would seem stressful just dealing with this alone but after coronavirus the stress sort of drops away as the task then becomes so big that it seems impossible.

If only we had some control over one of these two factors!

Viruses traditionally don’t respond to requests to delay activity and wait for the health service to catch up. A delay to the end of the transition period would, if possible, be useful though and might be more achievable.

Allow us to catch up after Covid first. One crisis at a time.

The Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland governments have all called on the UK government to extend the Transition Period before the 30th June deadline.

Boris Johnson and his cabinet must now take this choice.

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