Healthcare still faces delays and frustrations for patients warns BMA

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland 

Location: Northern Ireland
Last reviewed: 14 January 2022

The BMA is warning that patients are likely to still face delays to treatment because of the Omicron wave of infections. Dr Tom Black BMA NI Council chair said, “In the daily statistics we are seeing the number of infections going down, but this is because fewer people are having PCR tests, and many will not be recording the result of their lateral flow test.

“There are still a high number of cases in the community and thankfully while our hospitalisation numbers remain steady, we will have a lot of staff off sick and isolating and unfortunately this will have a knock-on effect on care.

“We surveyed our members last week and 27% said that within the last week they had to self-isolate because of Covid and 65% said they had colleagues self-isolating; and of that 30% said it was having a significant impact on patient care and 35% said it was having a moderate impact on patient care.

“Furthermore 34% told us that there were significant increase in delays to non-urgent medical care and investigations. 48% were concerned about the staffing levels in their place of work, 60% were extremely concerned about the ability to deliver urgent and non-acute care to non-covid patients and 64% were extremely concerned about the NHS’s ability to reduce delays and waiting lists for elective or non-urgent medical care, investigations, procedures and treatments.

“All of this has a knock-on effect on the well-being of doctors; nearly 60% in our survey said their morale was low, with 23% saying it was a lot worse due to omicron and 49% saying it was a little worse. Unfortunately, 38% said they were considering their desire to remain working in the next year. So, if we see doctors leaving through stress and burnout it will be even more pressure on our overstretched health system.

“Over the next few weeks people need to remain vigilant, continue to test and isolate if necessary and record the results of their lateral flow tests so we can get an accurate picture of cases. Our members said they wanted to continue to see mask wearing and social distancing continue during this current phase of infections.

“It is no secret that our waiting lists have been dreadful for many years and the added impact of Covid has pushed us to the edge of being able to deliver all of the services people here need. There is no quick fix to any of this unfortunately, we really are in for a few very difficult few years.”

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