While lessons must be learned, it is premature to speculate how differently the NHS and Government could have dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic, the president of the Catholic Medical Association (UK) has warned.
Dr Dermot Kearney also pointed out that it is still far too early to speculate what the longer-term outcomes may be, “especially as this pandemic is far from being finished”.
Dr Kearney’s comments came as the Nuffield Trust thinktank warned that longstanding problems in the NHS, such as not enough beds and staff, will slow it down compared with other countries as it recovers from Covid-19.
However, the Catholic medic pointed out that while it is “always useful to compare performance in healthcare against other countries”, reports doing so “need to be treated with a degree of caution”.
The study found that the NHS was in a poor starting position going into the pandemic compared with other countries such as Germany, which had far more beds and nurses.
The report looked at the NHS compared to systems in 31 countries including Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain and the US.
It found the UK ranked in the bottom third when it came to capital spending, doctors per person, hospital beds per person, and hospital bed occupancy.
In contrast, Germany had more than three times the hospital beds and nearly twice as many nurses per person as the UK.
The study added: ‘While the UK ranks among the average for waiting times of the health systems analysed, its position is likely to deteriorate given how poorly the UK has contained the virus compared with most other countries, and it will have to resume services while Covid-19 remains a very real problem.’
However, Dr Kearney said the initial question should always be “are we comparing like with like?”
“The UK has a very different healthcare system than that of other European and North American nations,” he told The Catholic Universe.
“It may be the case that the NHS was less well prepared to cope with the pandemic due to lower numbers of doctors and nurses and lower levels of spending on healthcare provision.
“It may also be the case, however, that different methods for recording numbers of Covid positive cases were employed in different jurisdictions.
“It may even be the case that the actual registration of deaths considered possibly related to Covid were carried out differently between different countries.
“Testing strategies seem to be different among different countries and even within the UK, at least in the earlier stages of the pandemic. The actual numbers of positive cases anywhere in the world is therefore very difficult to ascertain.”
The report said the UK had a wider geographical spread of Covid-19 than other countries. Experts also found that, while London had more Covid-19 cases than any other part of the UK, it accounted for less than 17 per cent of total cases in the country.
Picture: Archive photo, dated 12th July 2020, shows a couple wearing protective face mask and gloves walking past a window shop in Crouch End, north London, displaying an artwork depicting Captain Tom and a NHS rainbow to thank key workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. (Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment).