The Covid-19 pandemic has put enormous pressure on the NHS over the last year, leaving staff exhausted and services overstretched. Whilst the need to stay home to reduce infection rates is obvious, the spread of Covid-19 is not the only factor overwhelming our hospitals and there are responsibilities we must all take on in order to safeguard the NHS. One of the prime examples of this is road traffic accidents. It is critical that people think twice before taking unnecessary car journeys — not only to reduce infections, but to reduce major road traffic accidents.
While there have been less cars on the road throughout the pandemic, accidents are still occurring that could have been prevented. This can lead to severe major trauma injuries that require long term medical attention. For example, for the year ending June 2020, there were 24,470 people killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents reported to the police. In addition, accidents involving cyclists are still occurring at a high rate, which is very concerning given that many people have started cycling since the onset of the pandemic.
Although our experience is showing a reduction in road traffic trauma patients being admitted to hospital, road use is currently much higher than in previous lockdowns, even though the NHS is under more strain this time round. For example, during the first week of the latest lockdown, data from RAC Black Box Insurance customers shows there were on average 10 per cent more cars in daily use than during the first week of March’s lockdown, leading to 31 per cent more daily miles driven. Additionally, the RAC believes traffic volumes are now at a similar level to the middle of last May, which was the point restrictions first started to be eased. The knock-on effect from this increase in road use could be critical, and road users must think twice before taking unessential car journeys.
The increase in road use is sadly likely to lead to more road traffic accidents, which risk resulting in more major trauma injuries and greater demand for rehabilitation services. As there is already extremely high demand for the use of key NHS services, including rehabilitation, we must do all we can to prevent increasing the workload of our healthcare key workers. Adding to the pressure of the NHS will not only adversely impact staff, but also major trauma survivors, who require access to both physical and psychological rehabilitation to facilitate their recovery from injury.
As we move into spring and slowly navigate our way out of the Covid-19 pandemic, we should be realistic about the extent of the pressure the NHS faces and how long it will take before it is able to operate at normal capacity. One thing that individuals can do in the meantime to help the NHS is to avoid taking unnecessary car journeys. There is little reason to travel at the moment with the country in lockdown, so this is something we are all more than capable of doing.