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NHS bosses have urged Boris Johnson to take action now ahead of "one of the most difficult winters ever".
The NHS Providers organisation warned the health service is currently as stretched as it was at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in January – and called for measures to be taken now before it gets worse over the winter months.
In an open letter to the prime minister, chancellor Rishi Sunak, health secretary Sajid Javid, Treasury secretary Steve Barclay and NHS England chief executive Lord Stevens, NHS Providers leaders Chris Hopson and Saffron Cordery made a series of funding demands.
Pandemic or not, winter is always the most difficult time of the year for the NHS.
And Hopson and Cordery warned a combination of COVID-19 cases, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children could make it “one of the most difficult winters the NHS has ever faced”.
They added there will be additional complications with the COVID vaccine rollout.
At the same time as facing winter pressures, Hopson and Cordery warned of the “highly complex” balancing act of completing second doses for younger adults and issuing booster doses for older adults – while also “delivering a significantly expanded flu vaccination campaign”.
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The letter warned it will be a “tired and overstretched workforce” once again carrying the NHS through the winter, and that upcoming decisions made on funding post-September will be “key” to determining how well the NHS can cope.
Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said in a statement that “now more than ever, the NHS must get the funding it needs to win that fight" due to "the prospect of one of the worst winters on record".
Warnings of a difficult winter are nothing new to the government. The UK's most prominent COVID scientist, Professor Chris Whitty, has repeatedly said the NHS is facing a tough few months.
Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference last month, Prof Whitty said there will likely be a COVID surge "because winter and autumn favour respiratory viruses".
The chief medical officer added the same can be expected with flu outbreaks after they were suppressed last winter due to lockdowns.
Watch: Coronavirus in numbers