They say there has been a rise in other illnesses aside from coronavirus – with particular worries over cardiovascular or heart conditions that may have not have been diagnosed during the pandemic, respiratory viruses, people experiencing a mental health crisis and patients suffering with long covid.
Healthcare staff are also tired and demoralised, with many fearing another wave of the virus and teams struggling because of high numbers of colleagues self-isolating.
York public health director Sharon Stoltz said: “It’s winter now in the NHS in July. We have never known it as bad as this. And there is a real fear for what winter will bring, when the health system is so busy now.”
She said York Hospital is seeing a “slow but steady rise” in the number of covid patients.
But the hospital and GP surgeries are also busy tackling a backlog of elective surgery and routine appointments, a busy A&E department partly due to a rise in other viruses and people with acute mental health problems, and a large number of healthcare staff unable to work because they are self isolating.
“The covid data doesn’t truly reflect the pressures the hospital is under at the moment,” she said.
“Staff morale is very low at the moment. Staff are tired, they are exhausted to be honest, and are quite worried that we are at the beginning of another wave of covid and the impact that’s going to have on the NHS.
“There are large numbers of staff off because they have to self isolate. Government policy is no longer to protect the NHS. The NHS is expected to deal with the backlog of elective procedures as well as dealing with the very real pressures on services.”
There is a backlog in routine prevention activities, such as monitoring people’s blood pressure, and this is likely to have a knock-on effect in increasing levels of cardiovascular disease, she added.
There are also concerns around long covid, with some population modelling showing that nearly 300 people in York are already living with the condition, which sees symptoms last for more than 12 weeks.
Ms Stoltz said that if the number of covid inpatients continues to rise as restrictions to slow down the spread of covid are scrapped, she is worried that routine appointments, elective surgeries and preventative care will be put on hold again.
“That will cause quite a lot of distress to residents and will have negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of the population and health staff, because we are trying to do our best,” she said.