Doctors in Northern Ireland fear second wave of Covid-19

by BMA Northern Ireland media team

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Monday 14 September 2020

A snap survey of doctors in Northern Ireland has found there are considerable fears over a second wave of Covid-19, with over 80% of respondents saying it is likely or very likely to happen within the next six months.

The survey, which was carried out by the BMA ahead of their Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) on Tuesday, asked doctors about a range of Covid-19 related issues including what the biggest risks for a second peak were and what needs to be prioritised now to get the health service up and running again. 

Nearly 500 doctors from Northern Ireland responded to the survey with 47% of them saying their current greatest fear for the health service was a second wave of the virus. Alongside this doctors from both general practice and hospitals were concerned about the capacity to manage the pandemic alongside restarting routine care for patients.

Respondents were asked what they felt presented a risk of causing a second peak, 57% strongly agreed that confusing messages on public health measures including mask wearing and household social interactions presented a risk and 52% strongly agreed that a lack of monitoring of public health measures created was a risk.

When asked about what needs to be done the prevent a second wave most respondents felt there needed to be a coherent approach to local out breaks and a ‘fit for purpose’ testing and tracing system. There also needed to be better public messaging on measures like wearing face coverings, social distancing and contact with non-household members.

Commenting on the results, Dr Tom Black, BMA Northern Ireland Council chair said, “The past few days have clearly demonstrated that we are only through the first phase of this pandemic and there is going to be a long winter ahead.

“Our members, who have worked throughout the last six months either on the wards, in practices, in the community or remotely, are rightly worried that we have not been able to get his disease under control.

“From this survey we can see that doctors think we need two things to prevent a second, worse peak of Covid-19; a fit for purpose track and trace system and a coherent, rapid and consistent approach to getting local outbreaks under control. Last week the Executive made the right moves in that direction with localised lockdowns and alongside that we need clear messages for the general public so they understand what they are being asked to do and why.

“For the health service itself doctors identified two clear priorities to get it back onto a sustainable footing; covid secure workplaces and adequate supplies of PPE, and prioritisation of patients to clear the backlog of those who need assessed urgently.”

This years’ ARM will take place online and members will discuss the impact of the pandemic alongside other issues. In an online speech [released on Monday 14 September] Dr Black will say “[This year] Our senior doctors transformed the service in hospitals and in the community. Our junior doctors accepted redeployment and difficult rotas without complaint. And our medical students stepped into the breach with their colleagues on the front line.

“The year ahead will be very difficult and we in BMA Northern Ireland have a lot of work to do for our members. We need to fight for pay parity throughout the UK. We need to do more work on representation and leadership. We need to integrate civility, kindness and fairness into everything we do. We need to strive to bring the service back to normal, and we need to establish and support our new medical school.”



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. 480 doctors and medical students in Northern Ireland took part in the survey between September 9 and 11.
  2. On Tuesday 15th September, the BMA holds its Annual Representative Meeting (ARM). For more information on the virtual event and to watch proceedings on the day visit
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