BMA calls for rapid data transparency for dealing with local Covid spikes

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Wednesday 1 July 2020

The BMA says the Government needs to start being more open and transparent with local Covid-19 data and about how regional spikes in infections will be anticipated and managed in the future.

The call from the Association comes after the Government announced a reintroduction of lockdown measures in and around Leicester on Monday due to increasing levels of infection in the city. But health leaders and local authority leaders in the region have criticised the lack of timely data relevant to their vicinity made available to them.

The most recent BMA tracker survey showed doctors’ anxieties around NHS demand and the prospect of a second wave, which will only be heightened by local flare-ups. More than 60% of doctors had little to no confidence in their local health system’s ability to manage patient demand as NHS services begin to resume, while half said they could not handle a second spike in Covid-19 cases1.

Therefore as pubs, restaurants and other businesses are permitted to open in the rest of England this weekend, the BMA wants the Government to:

  • Set metric ‘trigger points’ at which action will be taken to reintroduce local and national restrictions, and for these to be used transparently. This metric should consider not only the regional reproductive number or ‘R rate’, but also the proportion of the population currently infected.
  • Share timely, comprehensive and reliable information to all those involved in the management of new cases at a local level and in particular to local public health teams.
  • Give clear, consistent guidance to the public that strict social distancing and infection control measures must continue to be adhered to. This includes the use of face coverings in public places where social distancing is not possible.
  • Guarantee adequate supplies of personal protective equipment to areas impacted by localised spikes in infection rates, and give local health providers the power decide how or when to reprioritise care in the event of a new wave.

The BMA also wants clarity on whether local public health teams and governments have the power to impose further restrictions in England or if this can only be permitted by the Secretary of State.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“The Prime Minister has talked about a ‘whack a mole’ strategy to tackle local outbreaks, but this is no use if the people leading the response on the ground – be they public health teams or local leaders – are not given the most accurate up-to-date data possible. This is crucial to allow swift action and to protect lives and the health service, and something that is not happening right now.

“This is all the more important given that the ‘world leading’ test and trace app is not in place, meaning local leaders and teams armed with up-to-date information will be vital in containing spread of outbreaks.

“The virus is still very much in circulation, with the most recent figures estimating that around 51,000 people in the community have Covid-19 in England at any given time2. The Government must be clear about trigger points of increases in infection and prevalence rates, at which action will be taken to reintroduce local and national restrictions, and for these to be used transparently.

“While we understand people around England will be looking forward to this weekend when lockdown restrictions will be eased further, it is vital that the Government puts in place robust measures to mitigate the spread of infection, with clear public health messaging including the wearing of face coverings when social distancing is not possible.

“Given that a second local or national wave remains a real possibility, hospitals and GP practices need guarantees that they will be supported at the first sign of a flare up – with proper and adequate supplies of PPE so that they can put their patients and staff first.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Survey results available here.
  2. Source: Office for National Statistics.

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