The NHS is facing a “huge” challenge in its fight against Omicron, NHS Providers said.
The organisation for the NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services said the announcement on Sunday that the target to get every adult vaccinated has been brought forward by a month is a “critical moment”.
It added that the NHS needs public support “now as much as ever” as the health service is “already under enormous pressure”.
An NHS Providers spokesperson said: “It is important that the Prime Minister recognises that this is an emergency. The threat from Omicron is becoming clearer, but there is an opportunity – through an accelerated booster campaign – to contain its impact.
It added that “we will need to reprioritise” as the NHS is “already beyond full stretch”.
The spokesperson said: “As more hospital staff become involved in the vaccination campaign this is likely to impact on planned care, causing some additional delays. Patients will be prioritised according to clinical need, but trust leaders are only too aware of the impact of these difficult decisions.”
Macmillan Cancer Support reacted to the news that other NHS services may be delayed and said “the Government also must not fail to ensure NHS cancer services are prioritised and protected this winter to ensure that nobody faces long waits and disruption in vital cancer care”.
Mr Taylor added: “There are significant vacancies across the NHS, frontline staff are exhausted, and they are working in a very pressured environment. They expect continued honesty and ongoing support from the Government, as well as for all parliamentarians to make sure the new interventions pass next week given how tough winter is expecting to be and the devastating impact coronavirus can have on people’s lives.
“The public also has a vital role to play in how they go about their daily lives and use local health services.”
His words were echoed by Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen, who said: “The rapid spread of the new variant means the expansion of the booster programme is the right thing to do. Nursing staff have already played a leading role in the delivery of the vaccination programme and they stand ready to continue to do the same again.
“However, we are concerned about the scale and pace of this expansion, given these same nurses are already facing huge demands under existing unsustainable pressures in every part of the UK health and care system.
“Which is why the Government must be prepared to take every step needed to slow the spread. Nursing staff know the reality of acting too late and will expect those lessons to have been learnt to protect services now.”