Responding to the Government’s autumn and winter plan for managing Covid-19, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“The NHS is heading into an incredibly challenging winter: GPs and hospital doctors are already under immense pressure having to contend with Covid-19 and the likely onslaught of flu, while services are overstretched with trying to treat the huge backlogs of care, with patients suffering on long waiting lists for the treatment they need.
“It’s only right that Government has decided to press ahead with implementing a booster vaccine programme to control the spread of Covid, and we’re pleased to see that healthcare workers are included in that. However, vaccination will never offer 100% protection and with high rates of infection, we must act now and introduce other measures if we’re to keep the health service afloat this winter.
“The UK Government introduced restrictions last October because it was rightly worried that there were more than 1,000 daily Covid hospital admissions. Today, we have more than 8,000 hospitalised Covid patients and 50% more patients in ITU.
“Today, the UK Government is advising the public to meet outdoors where possible, and to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces – they clearly believe these simple measures do make a difference, yet are failing to act by making these a requirement. We’ve had this kind of double-speak before, which has resulted in action not being taken until it is too late. Metric trigger points at the very least should have been, and must still be, considered.
“While ministers speak of a ‘plan B’ – although on what basis is unclear - they should open their eyes and realise that now is the time to act. If left too late, we could find ourselves in a position where the NHS is dangerously overwhelmed, returning to a situation where ambulances were queueing round corners and hospitals had no choice but to pause all elective care, further increasing the already enormous backlog.
“We are already going into winter 50,000 doctors short of where we should be. The evidence shows that vaccines alone won’t be enough to curtail the escalating impact of Covid infections, and if we continue on this course without other preventative measures put in place now, the challenges coming our way could go from being achievable to totally insurmountable.”
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.