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NHS England downgrades Covid alert level

by Jess Hacker
26 March 2021

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The NHS’ national incident level for the Covid response has been lowered from level four to three to better support regional service recovery, NHS England has said.

Effective immediately, the management of the coronavirus incident will move from being nationally co-ordinated to a regional level, as happened during summer 2020, it said.

The shift was announced by Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, at a public board meeting on Thursday (25 March), and follows a steady decline in overall cases in England and reduced pressure on critical care and bed occupancy.

NHS England said it will continue to ‘closely monitor’ local outbreaks and variants of concern, but will retain the option to revert to level four as required.

It added: ‘Covid-19 will likely remain endemic for some time to come. Local systems and networks should therefore continue to identify and implement learning from the response to date to build resilience ahead of potential demand on our services and in advance of next winter.’

In a letter to practices, NHS England said that while control will now transfer back to a regional level, current national oversight will continue as Covid remains an incident of international concern.

NHS England also confirmed that all Covid-related information will still be communicated through Covid incident management channels.

NHS organisations will not be ‘expected to respond to incident instructions received outside of these channels’, the letter said.

It added: ‘This change to a level three incident, and associated changes to expectations on reporting and sharing of data, are intended to support system and regional teams as you increasingly focus on individual, organisational and service recovery.’

It comes as NHS England published its national recovery plan for patient care and staff wellbeing, setting out six main priorities for the year ahead.