London – The National Health Service (NHS) in England was ill-prepared for the seismic shock of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a hospital chief has said.
The service was already running at nearly full capacity with long waits for non-urgent operations even before COVID-19 arrived, according to Prof Marcel Levi, the University College London Hospitals trust’s chief executive.
Prof. Levi leaves his role at the end of March, after four years, to return to his native Holland to become chief scientific adviser to the Dutch government.
In a BBC interview, he argues that it could take “a very long time” to clear the backlog of routine surgery and procedures which has built up because of cancellations during the pandemic. He says more money will be needed quickly to run weekend and evening sessions in operating theatres.
Prof Levi also believes the most successful responses to the pandemic were those under the control of the NHS – in contrast to those which were run by independent contractors.
“If you want to get something done, ask the NHS and don’t outsource it to all these private companies,” he said.
Prof Levi started his job in London having been chairman of the executive board of the Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amsterdam.
A magazine in the Netherlands named him as Dutchman of the year in 2016. He is a practising consultant, and continued seeing patients as well as carrying out his chief executive role.
He believes hospitals coped extremely well in the face of intense pressure when infection rates surged during the second wave in early 2021.
“I do not think there is any country with such a high number of Covid patients presenting with such a steep rise like we’ve seen in January and February, that were dealt with in any health system in such a proper way,” he said.
“So I’m very proud of how the NHS behaved and acted with the skill available to provide sufficient hospital care for what patients needed.” (BBC)