Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the The King's Fund's online course, The NHS Explained: How the Health System in England Really Works. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsThe Covid-19 outbreak has had profound implications for the NHS the staff that work in it and the patients it serves. Because of the type of illness that Covid-19 causes the NHS needed to increase the number of critical care beds that had available. These beds enable us to provide the highest level of support to patients especially with breathing. To help increase the number of critical care beds the NHS have done a number of things. Within existing hospitals they've changed a lot of existing services like wards and operating theatres to enable them to become critical care facilities. We've also built brand new temporary hospitals these hospitals known as Nightingale hospitals throughout England have allowed a number of new beds to be created.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 secondsBut alongside physical beds we obviously need highly trained clinical staff to support patients in those beds so the NHS has been retraining its existing clinical staff to enable them to provide support and critical care facilities. We've also been bringing back thousands of staff from retirement to mean that we now have more staff able to support the frontline .Outside of changing our critical care capacity we've also seen big changes across the NHS. In outpatient services and in general practice for example we've seen services try to reduce the amounts of face-to-face physical contact that's required between clinicians and patients to reduce the chance of passing on infections.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 secondsThis has led to a very large increase in the use of digital technology to enable consultations between clinicians and patients. In hospitals we've also seen very rapid discharge of people who are fit to leave the hospital - going from hospital to their home to the community and to care homes. Finally we're seeing a massive increase in the number of volunteers who are helping the NHS and helping vulnerable patients in the community and so far we've had seven hundred and fifty thousand people sign up to be volunteers in that way. Some of these transformations will last beyond Covid-19.

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 secondsDigital change for example is really positive change in how clinicians and patients can interact with each other and have their health care needs [met]. Other changes will need to be reversed once we have reached and overcome the peak of cave at 19 for example operating theatres will need to turn back to the operating theatres so we can restart critical operations like hip replacements cataracts etc. Overall the NHS has done an astonishing job to get ready for Covid-19 outbreak. This has been a tremendous efforts from staff right across the NHS from those working on the front line

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 secondsclinically but also including absolutely crucial functions right across the NHS: administration, portering, IT. It's really been a team effort to make sure the NHS is as ready as it can be.

How will COVID-19 change the NHS?

The NHS in England is currently facing a challenge the like of which has not been seen in living memory. The challenge will change over time and eventually we will begin the process of returning to normality – even if that may well turn out to be a new normal and not the world we left in February 2020.

The pandemic will be felt differently across health and care, from the emergency services to elective care, from physical health to mental health and from public health, through primary care and all the way to social care. For many this challenge has been added to those from the past: staff shortages are not new and the COVID-19 outbreak and the response to it is likely to impact on them in ways it is currently hard to foresee. The NHS is also responding in ways which mean that progress on pre-existing policy ambitions may be met sooner. In this video Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, provides an overview on how the COVID-19 will impact the NHS in the long-term.


Want to know more about how the NHS is responding to COVID-19?

As the situation with COVID-19 develops and changes, we will be updating this step with additional resources and further reading from The King’s Fund.

How is general practice responding to the COVID-19 outbreak?
The pictures of the amazing transformation of the London ExCel Centre into NHS Nightingale exemplify some of the incredible large-scale changes happening across the health service to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. This blog highlights some of the amazing, less easily photographed, innovations happening in general practice, which has transformed itself in the space of just a few weeks.

Checking the system’s blind spots: prioritising the community response to Covid-19
With much of the focus of the NHS response to the pandemic focusing on hospitals and GP services, what has been the impact of Covid-19 on community health services?

Integrating health and social care in the COVID-19 response
This blog explores how the response to the COVID-19 outbreak has shown examples of real community spirit and collaboration, as well as revealing some deep-rooted differences between the NHS and social care sector.

Capitalising on the offer of help – volunteering in the COVID-19 crisis
The number of people stepping up to volunteer during the COVID-19 outbreak has hit the headlines, but what role are they playing? This blog looks at how volunteers are currently supporting the COVID-19 response and what this might mean for volunteering in future.

Tough challenges but new possibilities: shaping the post Covid-19 world with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector
This blog explores the challenges facing the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector and the importance of harnessing its expertise, workforce and reach in the Covid-19 response.


Making sense of the Covid-19 outbreak

Deaths from Covid-19 (coronavirus): how are they counted and what do they show?
This explainer article explores what methods are being used to count deaths from Covid-19 and what the numbers tell us.

Ethnic minority deaths and Covid-19: what are we to do?
Covid-19 is taking a disproportionate toll on health and care staff from an ethnic minority background. What is this telling us about the actions that we need to take to address this?

Critical care services in the NHS
Critical care capacity has been described as ‘the number to watch’ during the COVID-19 outbreak. This explainer looks at critical care capacity in England, how critical care units work and how they are staffed.

The NHS in a nutshell: the number of hospital beds
A shift in national policy towards providing care outside of hospital has seen a reduction in the number of hospital beds. However, more recently there has been growing concern that this has gone too far and we now don’t have enough hospital beds. How has the number of hospital beds in England changed over time and how does this compare to other countries?


Frontline experiences of the Covid-19 outbreak

Tackling the Covid-19 outbreak: tales from the frontline
David Oliver, a hospital doctor, writes about his first hand experience of providing care during the Covid-19 pandemic.

From contract disputes to Covid-19: tales from a junior doctor
What’s it like for clinicians working through the Covid-19 pandemic? And what really happened during the junior doctor dispute in 2015? In this episode of our podcast, Anna Charles talks with Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, GP trainee and former chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee.


Want some practical support and advice during this period?

The King’s Fund resources below were created to support NHS leaders but we also hope that they may be helpful for others too.

Resources supporting our mental health and wellbeing
This page brings together some resources providing practical tools and information to support the mental health and wellbeing of health and care workers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Managing anxiety about loss
This short article provides some practical advice on managing your anxiety around loss, not only of people but also routines, peace of mind and identity too.

Managing your energy
Taking time out for self-care is important for managing and maintaining your energy during times of crisis. This short article outlines four principles to bear in mind.

Leading virtual meetings
Leading virtually can seem challenging, but a few basic technical and human skills will help you to engage with colleagues and ensure your virtual meetings are productive.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

The NHS Explained: How the Health System in England Really Works

The King's Fund

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: