Boris Johnson is attempting to persuade people it is safe to visit A&E, after it was revealed patients’ reluctance to attend because of coronavirus may have caused 16,000 more deaths.
Announcing handouts of £300m to upgrade A&E facilities in England, the prime minister said the government is making hospitals safer and reducing the risk of infection from COVID-19.
“It’s vital that those who need emergency treatment this winter access it,” he said.
“And for those who remain concerned about visiting hospitals, let me assure you that the NHS has measures in place to keep people safe.”
The prime minister’s plea comes just days after the government’s own Office of National Statistics (ONS) claimed that for every death from coronavirus itself, a further two occurred because of the lockdown‘s wider impact.
Of the 16,000 non-COVID deaths, the ONS suggested 6,000 were as a result of a big reduction in people attending A&E, possibly because of patients’ reluctance to seek medical attention.
And in a bid to give people more confidence to go to A&E, Mr Johnson said 117 NHS trusts will receive funding to help prepare for winter and reduce the risk from further outbreaks of the virus.
The government said hospitals could use the new funding to expand waiting areas and increase the number of treatment cubicles, boost A&E capacity by providing additional space, reduce overcrowding and improve infection control measures.
Other measures could include increasing same-day emergency care.
Projects will be completed by the start of next year so hospitals benefit from the upgrades during the peak of winter.
“We continue to deliver on our promise to build back better and faster, with £300m allocated today for NHS trusts to upgrade their facilities and improve A&E capacity,” Mr Johnson added.
“These upgrades will help our fantastic NHS prepare for the winter months, helping them to deliver essential services and reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.
“Thanks to the hard work and tireless efforts of NHS staff throughout the pandemic, our A&Es have remained open for the public.”
The ONS figures, published last Friday, suggested there were 38,500 excess deaths in England connected to COVID-19 between March and 1 May, but 41% of those deaths were the result of missed medical care rather than the virus itself.