Health unions put forward nine-point plan for safe reopening of NHS
16 health unions have said that quick-fire testing and sufficient access to personal protective equipment must be available in order for the NHS to resume routine services.
The demands were included in a nine-point plan put forward by the unions, which include Unison, the Royal College of Nursing, Unite and GMB, mapping how routine services can safely resume during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The unions have also said that staff working during the crisis should be given overtime pay and that the government should not freeze public sector pay.
However, The Telegraph reports that a Treasury assessment of the Covid-19 pandemic estimates that the crisis could cost the public purse nearly £300 billion in 2020 and a two-year public sector pay freeze could be implemented to help balance the books.
NHS England has already told hospitals that routine and non-urgent operations and procedures that have been halted during the pandemic should now resume, instructions which came as the number of monthly A&E visits stooped to the lowest levels on record.
Cancer treatment and screening has been put on hold in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, while very few admissions have been carried out in England.
But the unions feel that the NHS must guarantee staff and patient safety should outpatient clinics and surgical procedures resume.
They also said that a shortage of PPE on the front lines must be avoided, having brought about “widespread anxiety” and undermined the confidence of critical personnel.
Meanwhile, experts have said that restoring the pre-pandemic flow of NHS services could take months.
Sara Gorton of the Unison union said: "As hospitals get busier, and clinics and other services begin to reopen, the safety of staff and patients is paramount. But this can't happen without plentiful and constant PPE supplies.
"Tackling Covid has been a huge challenge, but this next phase will be a crucial test, too."
The plan put forward by the unions also looks to ensure that social distancing is properly maintained, with staff allowed to work from home. It also requests that staff are regularly redeployed to ensure they do not become overwhelmed.
The unions claim that roughly 40,000 staff who have returned to the NHS during the crisis could be moved to help in short-staffed areas.
Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, has said that there should not be a “return to business as usual” within the NHS, but a full “reset” to ensure the long-term wellbeing of staff.
He said: "Health leaders want to establish the impact of the last few months on staff and how best to improve how they are looked after for the longer term."