Doctors forced to provide ‘less effective’ treatments to patients due to frontline medicine shortages, BMA survey reveals

by BMA media team Press release from the BMA.
Published: Saturday 18 April 2020
Contract and pen article illustration

Many UK doctors are being forced to provide treatments they feel are less effective for patients because of ongoing medicine shortages on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic, a major new survey by the BMA reveals1.

According to the member survey, 40% of doctors said current or expected shortages of medicines had at some stage left them with no option but to provide a treatment for patients they felt was less effective than the treatment they would normally use.

The BMA carried out the snapshot survey of more than 6,000 doctors after receiving mounting anecdotal evidence that supplies of vital drugs and other therapeutics simply aren’t available on the NHS frontline in many cases.

More than 4,000 doctors responded to the questions around supply of drugs with one third (33%) saying they experienced shortages some or most of the time.

The survey shows supply problems across a range of medicines, some of which are vital in the treatment of Covid-19, such as anaesthetics and oxygen.

Dr Rob Harwood, BMA Consultants Committee chair, said: “Doctors and other healthcare workers are going above and beyond to provide the best possible care for a growing number of patients during this national crisis.

“However, these results show that supplies of vital medicines and other essential resources simply aren’t available on the frontline on a regular basis, meaning doctors aren’t able to provide the treatment they would ideally want for their patients.

“In the case of seriously ill patients this could ultimately affect that person’s care and may even impact on their chances of recovery.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP Committee chair said: “Drug shortages in the NHS are nothing new, however, as this survey shows, one in three GPs and hospital doctors now say they are commonly experiencing supply issues.

“We cannot allow this situation to get any worse. Patients must be able to receive the highest quality care possible as we work to get through this pandemic.

“The Government must ensure that the system reacts quickly to shortages and ensure distribution networks are in place to quickly move resources around the country so that vital medicines are available to doctors when and where they are needed.”



Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union 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. 6,126 members completed the BMA survey between 14 and 16 April 2020. For a breakdown of drug shortage results see PDF.

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