Scottish Government's Christmas coronavirus plan labelled a 'major error' by leading medical journals

A joint editorial published by two leading medical journals has called the decision to ease coronavirus restrictions at Christmas, agreed to by the Scottish Government, a “major error that will cost many lives”.

The article, penned by Alastair McLellan of the Health Service Journal, and Fiona Godlee of The British Medical Journal, said the four nations approach, which was backed by the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations, was a “blunder”, arguing that NHS trusts faced being “overwhelmed” by a third wave of cases.

The extraordinary intervention is only the second joint editorial in the hundred-year history of both publications.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

The piece claims that a third wave in England could be 40 times higher than the second wave, which peaked in November with 14,712 inpatients being treated for Covid-19.

“In the past two weeks,” the authors wrote, “despite most of the country being in tiers 2 or 3, numbers of inpatients have started to rise again.

“By 14 December (the latest data available) covid bed occupancy had climbed back to 15,053.

“Unless something happens to change this trajectory, hospitals in England will have just short of 19,000 covid patients on New Year’s Eve.”

That figure compares to just 451 inpatients in England at the start of the second wave.

The article, penned by Alastair McLellan of the Health Service Journal, and Fiona Godlee of The British Medical Journal, said the plan, which the Scottish Government has backed, was a “blunder”. (Photo by Russell Cheyne - Pool/Getty Images)
The article, penned by Alastair McLellan of the Health Service Journal, and Fiona Godlee of The British Medical Journal, said the plan, which the Scottish Government has backed, was a “blunder”. (Photo by Russell Cheyne - Pool/Getty Images)

“The coming months are also likely to see the NHS under intense winter pressures due to seasonal outbreaks of norovirus, increased admissions of frail older people and the peak of staff absence,” the editorial added.

“The NHS will also be in the middle of delivering the largest vaccination programme in its 72-year history, via already overstretched general practices and hospitals.”

The article also takes aim at the “clearly inadequate” tier system, arguing that areas like Kent, which has been in tier 3 for a fortnight, “are still seeing strong increases in hospital admissions.”

The authors urge the UK Government to take a more cautious approach, similar to Germany - where the country will go into a fresh lockdown from December 16 until January 10.

The piece claims that a third wave in England could be 40 times higher than the second wave, which peaked in November with 14,712 inpatients being treated for Covid-19. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

“We believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives,” the editorial warned.

“If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be ‘protecting the NHS.’”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.