National Voices is a coalition of 170 health and care member organisations. Our members work with people who regularly use health and care services and are seeing a number of themes and patterns that are giving cause for great concern in this current crisis.
We clearly recognise the need to lockdown to curb the spread of more transmissible strains of coronavirus as vaccines are rolled out. But we are very worried about the ways in which now unavoidable changes to health and care services are being communicated to those desperately needing care.
For example, our members have seen urgent cancer treatment being cancelled, a lack of ITU beds for those having heart attacks, and people effectively being turned away from primary care.
These may now be necessary, unavoidable changes, but they beg answers to urgent questions: to what extent are NHS services open? Where services are closed, how are people being supported while they wait for treatment? What are the implications of changes to the vaccine schedule for those categorised as Extremely Clinically Vulnerable?
National Voices members support people with these and many other questions, but also report that unclear and inconsistent messaging is exacerbating an already dire situation, especially for people with long-term conditions, disabilities and impairments. Our ask is therefore that better communication is addressed as a priority now.
We have important questions about which NHS core services are available and how to access them; how people will be kept safe if they use services; support while people wait for care; the effect of vaccines on those with long-term conditions; guidance to shield, and more. Please read the full statement, available on this page as a download, to understand all our concerns.