All the alarms are ringing, loudly and incessantly. The NHS is facing a crisis as the result of the pandemic. This week, we were subject to an avalanche of warnings.

According to NHS Providers (which represents hospitals trusts and ambulance services), the NHS is facing its worst winter ever.

As you can see, the BBC is the most vocal participant in this anguish. Because of its dependence on the public sector, it has a stake to defend another branch of the state.

In fact, the Corporation seems to be only too eager to promote the NHS by spreading scare stories and praises about its lack of resources.


This has been the trend in recent times.

BBC Radio 5 Live Monday morning was consumed by discussion of the imminent winter crisis. This included praises for Britain’s fortitude and dismay at the failures of the cheeseparing industry.

Radio 4 continued the tradition with more of the same. Today’s Today program is focused on the NHS and the future. It was yesterday the NHS experience in Newcastle.

Hugh Pym from the health editor said that every week seemed more chaotic than the previous one for local hospitals, and added that “the strain will become even greater”.

Presenter Martha Kearney spoke of 'hospitals beyond full stretch', a theme eagerly taken up by Chris Hopson (pictured), the chief executive of NHS Providers

Martha Kearney was the speaker and spoke out about hospitals beyond full stretch. Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers (pictured), took this topic up.

Martha Kearney, presenter, spoke about ‘hospitals beyond their full stretch’. Chris Hopson is the chief executive at NHS Providers, and he was eager to take up this theme.

In an interview with her, she said that while staff are “running at maximum effort”, they’re left with an exhaustion of their ‘insufficient capacity.

According to him, the NHS has now been hit hard by ‘a dysfunctional workforce model’, as well as the ‘longest and worst financial squeeze in the history of the country’ during the last decade.

Here’s the crux of the problem. The BBC is acting as a collaborator, and NHS managers indulge in crude forms of political blackmail.

Presenter Martha Kearney (pictured) spoke of 'hospitals beyond full stretch'

Martha Kearney, the presenter (pictured), spoke about ‘hospitals beyond full stretching’

All this shroud-waving serves clearly the purpose of compeling the Government to infuse yet more funds into the NHS.

This has proven effective already, as record amounts have been handed to our struggling health care system.

Surprisingly, 41% of daily State spending goes towards the health sector. And this trend is set to be accelerated when the Government’s 1.25 per cent National Insurance hike takes effect in April, generating an extra £12 billion a year for health and social care.

In his Budget last month, the Chancellor also promised another £6 billion to clear the Covid backlog.

But we do know one thing about the NHS: Regardless of how large the funds are, they never seem to be enough. It seems that the NHS is always on the brink of collapse.

In his Budget last month, the Chancellor (pictured) also promised another £6 billion to clear the Covid backlog

In his Budget last month, the Chancellor (pictured) also promised another £6 billion to clear the Covid backlog

I am skeptical because of the endless talk about doom. For 35 years, I’ve worked in the NHS. Every winter, I seem to recall, has been called the “worst” ever.

The proclamation that disaster will soon come is actually a pre-Christmas tradition, unimpaired by reality.

Nigel Lawson, a Tory Chancellor for six years in the 1980s, said the NHS was the closest thing the English people had to a religion — and the prospect of a Biblical-scale apocalypse features heavily in the vision shared by the most fervent adherents of this faith.

There is no reason to panic. Amanda Pritchard (new chief executive at NHS) has made a statement that exaggerates the impact of Covid for political purposes.

She claimed that the NHS was ‘running hot’ and faced’very real health care pressures’ a week ago.

. The impact of Covid is being cynically exaggerated for political ends, an approach epitomised by a statement from the new NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard (pictured)

. Amanda Pritchard, the new chief executive of NHS, stated that Covid’s impact is being exaggerated for political purposes. (pictured).

The number of coronavirus-infected patients in hospitals was actually much lower than it was last year.

Last week she mentioned that there were 70775 Covid-19 patients in English hospitals, as compared to 11,680 the previous November 8th 2020.

NHS England clarified later that Pritchard was referring to August 2021 admissions, the latest set of monthly published figures. These numbers were 22,877 compared to 1,629 last August.

The BBC did not challenge Ms Pritchard’s selective use of old figures.

Equally unconvincing is the theory that a surge in Covid cases is set to overwhelm the NHS — a threat Boris Johnson talked up at his press conference on Monday, with reference to ‘storm clouds’.


This language is a poor choice. As deaths decline, and vaccine programmes expand their reach, we are beginning to see the end of the Covid pandemic.

I don’t believe that there are any grounds to be concerned about a possible new flu epidemic.

People who complain about the worst winter in history should remember 1957 when 33,000 were killed by the Asian influenza outbreak. In the UK, the epidemic was also known as the 1968 Hong Kong flu epidemic, which claimed 80,000 deaths.

But the NHS made it through that time and they will again.

The worst of the Covid pandemic is behind us, as deaths continue to decline and the vaccine programme extends its reach (stock image)

We are now past the worst effects of the Covid pandemic. The death toll continues to fall and the vaccination program has expanded its reach. Stock image

Paradoxically, Covid actually makes life simpler for the health system by encouraging greater flu vaccination, particularly among older people.

As a result of this — and more hand-washing, wearing of face masks and social distancing — influenza rates have tumbled in Britain since the coronavirus outbreak.

The government reports that there were nine flu-related hospitalizations last winter in England, as opposed to 1,671 for 2019/20.

Public Health England’s analysis found that there was no evidence of flu in the period between February 14th, 2021 and December 28th 2020.

One analysis by Public Health England found there were no flu cases detected at all between December 28, 2020, and February 14, 2021 (stock image)

Public Health England’s analysis found that there was no evidence of flu in the period between February 28, 2020 and February 14, 2021. (stock photo)


Even with a modest increase this winter, influenza is unlikely to return to pre-Covid levels. It could even kill around 30,000 people in an extremely bad year.

Hospitals are facing a backlog from operations that was accrued during the time when the NHS changed to the National Covid Service. While delaying procedures such as cancer surgery will not be an option, elective procedures may have to wait until the spring as it’s impossible to go on as normal during times of national emergency.

The worst aspect of current alarmism, however, is its use to stop reform of the NHS. The NHS is supported by BBC cheerleading as well as sentimentality. It pretends it can solve its problems by spending more money.

The truth is that extra funding can only make its problems worse. This happens by placing the needs of its workers above the health and perpetuating inefficient structures, sprawling bureaucracies, or chronic inefficiency.

It would be so much easier to do better without the NHS-worshipping blinders and constant gloom-mongering. A cycle of manufactured crises only reduces morale and makes people afraid. This inhibits our ability to drive vital reform. 

  •  ANGUS DALGLEISH is a London-based professor of oncology.