Rising Covid-19 cases would affect early diagnosis of other diseases – Whitty

Allowing Covid-19 cases to continue to rise will put pressure on the NHS and affect early diagnosis and treatment of other diseases, England’s chief medical officer has said.

In a stark warning, Professor Chris Whitty suggested that if NHS staff and hospitals see a large influx of cases, other services would undoubtedly suffer.

In the televised address to the nation, he said there were three ways “in which this virus is going to have a very potentially significant effect on the population’s health if we let it go out of control”.

The first was deaths directly from Covid-19, the second would be if the NHS emergency services were “overwhelmed by a huge spike”, and the third was “if the NHS is having to spend a large proportion of its effort in trying to treat Covid cases – because the numbers have gone up to very high levels and trying to put in case in place large numbers of systems to try and reduce the risk of transmission in hospitals – it will lead to a reduction in treatment for other areas, in early diagnosis of disease, and in prevention programmes”.

He said this pointed to an indirect effect on deaths and illness “if we allow cases to rise”, though he acknowledged it was a “difficult balance”.

He said introducing restrictions on people’s lives affected other areas, such as mental health and the economy.

It comes after health charities have warned of the huge strain on routine health services caused by the impact of Covid-19.

Thousands of people had planned tests and treatment cancelled or postponed during lockdown and the health service is yet to recover.