Prof Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and soon-to-be chief scientist of the World Health Organisation has been talking to The Guardian newspaper about the crisis in the NHS.
He said that unless something is done to tackle the crisis in morale, staffing and training, healthcare workers, "won't be there when you need them".
He told The Guardian: "This is a global issue, which I think is hugely concerning. It’s certainly true in this country. The resilience of healthcare workers, broadly defined from ambulance drivers to nurses to doctors, to care workers in social care, etc. They’re shattered. They are absolutely shattered.”
His comments were made in the context of a new round of strike action from various groups of healthcare workers. Thousands of ambulance workers in the GMB and Unite unions are currently on strike over pay and staffing, and the British Medical Association (BMA) has accused the government of reckless behaviour ahead of the result being announced of a strike ballot among junior doctors.
The BMA's chair of council Prof Philip Banfield, said that the prime minister and health secretary were "standing on the precipice of an historic mistake".
If the result comes out in favour of action, junior doctors would join nurses, ambulance staff, physiotherapists and midwives in taking industrial action.
Farrar said: "I think we have to address the morale, staffing, the training, everything from public health physicians to care workers, to doctors and nurses and physios and everybody in between because there’s very little spare capacity in any system globally. It’s particularly true in the UK. As you can see from the strikes, morale and resilience is very thin."