The NHS is preparing for a potential second wave of coronavirus this winter, the chief executive has said.
Sir Simon Stevens told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that it was ‘entirely possible’ there could be another increase in Covid-19 cases in the UK over the winter months.
And he warned it was still not known whether a vaccine would be available in time.
Asked if the NHS was preparing for a second wave, Sir Simon said: ‘Yes, it is entirely possible there will be.
‘Particularly if it is co-existent with the flu.
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‘And the risk is many of the symptoms are interchangeable.
‘So one of the things we need is a very rigorous NHS testing and tracing service available.
‘The ability to give early warnings to hospitals where there are those local increases and I think we are going to need the biggest-ever flu immunisation season we have ever had.’
Sir Simon said there were more than 20 research groups working on a vaccine, with some suggesting one could be available between September and December.
‘But there is still quite considerable uncertainty as to how you would administer it, would it be two doses or one?
‘Do you have to take it separately from the flu jab?
‘How long does the immunity last?
‘But clearly that would be a major gain were we able to get it.’
Sir Simon said there could be ‘very significant’ extra costs to the NHS later this year around the flu vaccination campaign, personal protective equipment (PPE) and sustaining extra hospital beds.
Asked how much it could cost, he said: ‘That is a dialogue we are having, but all the signs are that we will get the support we need.’
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