Our number one priority at this moment of national emergency is to ensure that doctors are able to go about their vital work and treat patients in the knowledge that they are as safe and supported as possible.
Our four main priorities across the UK are PPE provision, testing for health workers, BAME doctors and terms and conditions (including death in service).
If doctors are to treat patients effectively during the COVID-19 crisis, then they must be protected from the virus as they carry out their duties.
The lack of provision and continuing concerns of healthcare workers is putting doctors and patients alike at risk of serious illness and even of death.
We have consistently and strongly represented doctor concerns about PPE provision and advice throughout the crisis. We have also supported members with our own guidance – which is constantly reviewed and updated – throughout the pandemic.
- Our member surveys have tracked the supply and provision of PPE to doctors. These have attracted significant media attention and consistent front page coverage which Government has not been able to ignore.
- We are providing individual support and advice via our COVID 24/7 emergency helpline.
- We are in ongoing dialogue on this issue with the secretary of state for health, government ministers across departments, the chief medical officer, Public Health England and senior NHS officials.
The shocking statistics indicating the greater impact of the virus on BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) healthcare workers and the wider community is an issue that the BMA has led on since March.
It is vital that there is greater understanding of the issues and the underlying factors as well as the proper support in place for BAME healthcare and other public sectors worker that are rightfully concerned about working in the frontline.
- The first major body to call for - and secure - a national inquiry into the disproportionate of COVID-19 on BAME healthcare workers and communities.
- Lobbied for and secured a risk assessment framework to ensure that vulnerable and BAME doctors who are at highest risk of death from COVID-19 are better protected.
- We hosted a roundtable discussion following the release of the Public Health England review of the issue in early June with 13 leading BAME medical groups.
- We have become a leading voice on BAME issues with our chair of council discussing this topic on all main news outlets – across the main broadcast outlets as well as national and regional media.
- Invited to meet and discuss the issue with officials from number 10, government ministers, leader of the opposition, and senior officials across PHE and NHS England. We've engaged in public webinars to raise the profile of the issue.
We have campaigned consistently and strongly on issues affecting international doctors both prior and during the COVID-19 crisis. We owe a debt of gratitude to our overseas workforce who have in many ways been the beating heart of our health service since its inception.
- The BMA has lobbied since 2015 for the removal of the immigration health surcharge for healthcare workers, a charge that penalised workers from over 200 countries who come here to provide a vital service in our NHS. We were delighted that last week the Government decided to remove it.
- In late April the Government listened to voices, including the BMA, and granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK for dependants of doctors who die on the front line fighting.
Testing for healthcare workers
The BMA has forcefully campaigned for prioritising testing for healthcare workers during the pandemic.
During the past three months the BMA loudly and consistently campaigned for priority testing plans to be brought forward.
This has led to healthcare workers both with symptoms or that are asymptomatic now having access to testing.
We will continue to press the case for timely and quick access to such resources.
Terms and conditions
- Through close engagement with the Department of Health and Social Care, we have helped to ensure that all retired members returning to work will receive NHS indemnity automatically and free of charge.
- We have worked constructively with medical defence organisations to make sure that professional cover is available to the 15,000 doctors requested to return.
- We have produced guidance for doctors returning to work highlighting it is imperative that their health and wellbeing should not be endangered as a result of them returning to work.
- We are seeking to gain clarity about the arrangements which will apply to retired doctors who temporarily return to work.
- We have worked with relevant organisations to ensure that medical students stepping into any role are absolutely clear on what duties they can be expected to perform in order to avoid the risk of being asked to act beyond their level of competency.
- We have negotiated and produced guidance for medical students on taking on contracts of employment in the NHS due to COVID-19 and guidance on early provisional registration for final year students.
Death in service protection
Greater clarity and support to extend death in service cover is needed from the Government for all healthcare workers, to give them peace of mind for their families and loved ones, should the worst happen.
- The BMA wrote to the chancellor calling for additional provision to ensure that the dependants of NHS staff receive their full death in service entitlement, irrespective of whether they are an active member of the NHS pension scheme.
- To ensure medical students, junior colleagues and lower paid NHS staff’s families receive a fair entitlement, we are also calling for the introduction of a minimum amount payable if an NHS worker dies in service.
- We wrote to the home secretary calling for provision to ensure that the dependants of international doctors are automatically granted indefinite leave to remain if the doctor dies in service.
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