If COVID-19 escalates, impact on NHS 'will be grave', says BMA

by BMA media team Press release from the BMA.
Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 3 March 2020
Contract and pen article illustration

Responding to the release of the Government’s Covid-19 ‘action plan’, Dr Helena McKeown, a chief officer at the BMA, said:

“As the trade union representing all doctors and medical students the BMA is in constant dialogue with NHS leaders and the Government to ensure our members’ interests and concerns are being raised at the highest level.

“However, if the virus escalates in scale, the impact on an NHS that is already under intense strain, with record numbers of patients on waiting lists, people routinely being treated in hospital corridors and others waiting weeks for a GP appointment, will be grave. The public and our members will be rightly worried about how services will cope.

“As outlined in the Government’s plans, difficult decisions may need to be made around admissions, delaying treatment and prioritising those patients who are the most poorly - something that will no doubt cause real concern among both patients and clinicians.

“We also know that the NHS is vastly understaffed and the suggestion of bringing retired health workers back needs serious scrutiny. While some recently retired doctors may be able and willing to return to assist where they can, much will depend on what they are being asked to do.

"The wellbeing of these retired doctors, many of whom will be older themselves, must also be prioritised – they should not be putting their own health at risk by returning to work. The BMA continues working hard to support its retired members.

“The protection of healthcare staff is imperative – and while it’s positive to see a commitment to distributing personal protective equipment, this must apply to the whole health service, including GPs, and it is vital that these are provided in a timely fashion.

“Some of these plans may seem alarming, but what must be stressed is that these are based on the outbreak worsening significantly, and it is only responsible for authorities to have these preparations in place. While people will be naturally concerned, it is critical that all efforts at the moment continue to be on containment – and everyone has a part to play in this by following public health advice about handwashing and the use of tissues and not attending GP practices or hospitals if they are concerned about the virus. They should instead contact NHS 111 and follow the guidance and advice provided.”


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.

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Phone:020 7383 6448
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