No evidence Covid-19 vaccines are “overwhelming” NHS services

13 July 2021
What was claimed

The vaccination programme has overwhelmed the NHS.

Our verdict

We have seen no evidence to suggest this is the case. Both the Royal College of GPs and NHS Providers say the concerns in the article have not been reflected by their members, although they are dealing with significant operational pressures for other reasons.

Website The Daily Expose published an article with a headline claiming the NHS was never overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients in the last year, but is now because of the vaccination programme.

We have not seen any evidence to support this claim about the impact of vaccines. Indeed, the evidence we have suggests it isn’t true.  

The article claims that GPs are delivering the vaccine programme instead of seeing patients, which is pushing more patients toward hospitals, which it claims are also overburdened by patients suffering from adverse reactions to Covid-19 vaccines. 

The article says that “parts of the system are seeing demand at least 30% higher than before the pandemic”. It also says: “the exponential amount of adverse reactions being suffered to the Covid-19 vaccines could have something to do with it (the rise in demand) as well.”

While there is some evidence of certain trusts experiencing pressure over the last year, ultimately whether or not the NHS was "overwhelmed" is fairly subjective. 

We spoke to the Royal College of GPs, who said that GP services are facing pressure, but it is not being not caused by vaccination workload. 

Chair of the Royal College of GPs professor Martin Marshall told Full Fact: “GP services have been available throughout the pandemic. GPs and our teams have worked hard to ensure patients continue to have access to care, alongside delivering the Covid vaccination programme.

“The influx in the number of patients requiring care is being felt throughout the NHS, including in general practice with GPs and our teams currently delivering record numbers of consultations—24 million in the last four weeks—alongside 75% of the Covid vaccination programme being delivered in primary care. 

“This includes caring for a backlog of patients who may have been reluctant to access services during the pandemic due to concerns of contracting Covid-19 or overburdening NHS services, those on hospital waiting lists, and patients whose physical or mental health has been directly or indirectly impacted by the pandemic.”

There is also no evidence that adverse reactions to the Covid-19 vaccines have contributed significantly to current hospital pressures.

The Daily Expose cites the number of adverse reactions following vaccination reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) but, as we have previously written, these reports alone are not evidence that vaccines caused all these reactions. 

The MHRA has said that the “overwhelming majority” of these reports are of injection site reactions that are “not associated with more serious or lasting illness”.

We don’t know how many of these reactions were caused by the vaccines, if any. Nor do we know whether they required hospital treatment. On the other hand, these numbers do not take into account any adverse reactions which were not reported to the Yellow Card scheme.

However, NHS trust representatives NHS Providers told Full Fact that vaccine side effects had not been reported to be causing current pressures. 

Deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery added: “Trust leaders are telling us that the number of patients requiring hospitalisation for COVID-19 care is not increasing as rapidly as seen in previous waves, despite the spike in the number of people testing positive.

“This means that trusts can focus on addressing care backlogs, including working through the waiting list for planned surgery which has grown to 5 million people.

“There has also been increased demand for mental health services, and in urgent and emergency care, and we know ambulances and community services are also under pressure.

“The success of the vaccination programme means that the health service can continue to address these challenges, without being overwhelmed. We encourage everyone to have both their first and second jabs when called.”

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because while the NHS is facing operational pressures there is no evidence these are caused by vaccinations as claimed in the headline.

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