Sunak warns of troubles ahead this winter as the country faces strains

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Pandemic pressures means the number of patients waiting 52 weeks to be operated on is 250 times higher than its 1,600 pre-covid level. Health Secretary Steve Barclay warned senior ministers the NHS backlog had already been “significantly exacerbated” by the pandemic.

Food prices and energy bills have soared as inflation hit a 41-year-high of 11.1 per cent with global fuel prices being forced up by Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Looking ahead to winter, the Prime Minister said this would be a challenging period for the country caused by the aftershocks of the global pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.”

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden discussed some of the work “to mitigate some of the challenges expected this winter, including further strike action”.

The spokesman said inflation, strikes and medical appointments were “some of the areas the Government are trying to mitigate”.

Downing Street said the potential for power blackouts was not discussed but insisted ministers are “preparing for all eventualities”.

“We do have quite a diverse energy provision. Offshore wind continues to provide a huge amount of our energy, particularly during the winter months,” the spokesman said.

“While we are preparing for all eventualities, we are confident that we will continue to have good provision throughout the winter months.”

It came as National Grid’s energy systems arm issued a warning that the electricity supply might be tight on Britain on Tuesday evening.

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