Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “There is a lot at stake for the NHS’s recovery ambitions if the government is over-enthusiastic in its pandemic exit plans, which is why those responsible for health call for caution and an evidence-based approach.This should not be driven by political expediency.
Mr Taylor has long been a proponent of caution, having urged the government to activate Plan B in October, even before omicron emerged.
The poll found that 82% of NHS leaders opposed ending mandatory mask-wearing in the NHS and care homes, while 94% wanted to keep testing for healthcare staff and other key workers. . At present, NHS staff are asked to carry out a home test twice a week.
Amid reports the Office for National Statistics weekly infection survey could be scrapped or scaled back, 83 per cent wanted to keep weekly reports.
Mr Taylor said: “Hospital admissions and deaths linked to coronavirus continue to fall nationally and this allows the NHS to bring back many routine services it has been told to deprioritize during the peaks of the pandemic, including some non-emergency elective procedures.
“With the success of the vaccine and new Covid treatments, this offers real hope as we learn to live with the virus.
“But the government cannot wave a magic wand and pretend the threat is completely gone.
“There are still many uncertainties, including our long-term immunity and the emergence of future strains, which require a strong testing infrastructure and clear guidance on self-isolation to stay in place.”
Professor Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard, President of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said: “This poll confirms what many of us have been thinking and saying since the announcement of the early relaxation of the rules in England.
“It’s that it all seems very sudden and more driven as much by current political pressures as by sound scientific guidance.
“We need to learn how to live safely with Covid in the medium term. This does not mean claiming the threat to our health and in some cases life simply no longer exists.
“We should take a more incremental and phased approach to relaxing the rules and carefully monitoring what happens to infection rates – especially in healthcare settings or other settings where people are particularly at risk.
“We also need the ONS investigation of the cases to continue so that we have accurate data on which to base future decisions.”