Routine Healthcare in UK De-Prioritised in Favour of Administering Coronavirus Vaccines

A pedestrian walks past a poster by the charity Unicef, promoting Covid-19 vaccines, in Manchester, north west England on January 5, 2021, as Britain enters a national lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19. - England's six-week lockdown, which began at midnight, emulates the first national coronavirus curbs in place …
OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

NHS doctors have been told to “stand down” routine care for their general practice patients, prioritising instead administering vaccines for the Chinese coronavirus.

Last week the British drugs regulator approved for use a second coronavirus vaccine, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledging to rapidly innoculate Britain’s most vulnerable, as well as frontline healthcare workers.

Britons have seen their normal access to the taxpayer-funded National Health Service disrupted since the first lockdown in March 2020, but a report from The Telegraph claims that they will have even less access to their services, with guidance seen by the newspaper saying that vaccine administration must be given “top priority”.

The NHS is under pressure to deliver two million shots a week, with NHS England and the British Medical Association reportedly telling GPs to “re-prioritise and postpone other activities”. Charities told the newspaper that the instructions will damage the already degraded relationships that patients have with their local surgeries, after months of struggling to consistently receive care.

On Tuesday, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons said that cancer operations might be postponed because there will not be the capacity to handle them, saying the backlog will likely only be cleared by Summer 2021.

Other aspects of Britain’s healthcare system have been negatively impacted by prioritising efforts on dealing with the Chinese coronavirus.

The NHS has missed millions of scans, some of which could have been life-saving, as hospitals were told to cancel ‘non-essential’ services. The charity Cancer Research UK warned that delays and cancelled scans could result in fatalities.

Last month, one man died of cancer after having repeatedly begged the NHS for a scan during the first lockdown, with his widow blaming the refusal of examination for his death.

Other reports in recent months revealed that urgent referrals for cancer care have dropped, with chemotherapy attendance falling two-thirds in April 2020.

As well as physical health, there have been worrying reports of the effect that lockdowns and social distancing are having on mental health. In November, the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that the number of people having suicidal thoughts had tripled, with a similar rise in those suffering from anxiety disorders.

This week, one mental health professional warned of a “ticking time bomb” of mental health problems for young people as England is forced into a third strict lockdown, which could last three months.

The University of Nottingham’s Professor Ellen Townsend, who is part of the institution’s Self-Harm Research Group, told the MailOnline: “We know that suicide ideation increased in young people in the first UK lockdown.

“There was a worrying signal that suicides in young people increased during the first lockdown. We know that loneliness, social isolation, mental health issues have soared in young people.”

While child behaviour specialist Elizabeth O’Shea told the publication that “the pandemic has created a mental health ticking time bomb.” She warned of an increase in depression, OCD, and anxiety, because the lockdowns have absorbed such a large proportion of children’s early lives.

Prime Minister Johnson announced a third nation-wide shutdown on Monday, which includes stay-at-home orders, legally forcing Britons to remain indoors except for all but ‘essential’ reasons. England’s chief medical officer also said this week that even with the successful rollout of vaccines, the country might have to go into another lockdown next winter.

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