Responding to the speech1 today by the Prime Minister outlining the further easing of lockdown restrictions, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said:
“The coronavirus pandemic is still rife – too many people are still becoming infected and dying every day. If the Government wants to set the country on the path to ‘normality’, it must ensure that lockdown is eased safely and responsibly. That means ensuring clear and unambiguous public health messages and the consistent adherence to social distancing and the use of face coverings by the public when this is not possible. This also means providing support to employers to ensure that there are mitigations to prevent infection in the workplace.
“The Government must do all it can to prevent a second wave, given that the NHS is gearing up to face the most challenging winter in its history. The immediate priority - which the Prime Minister made no mention of - is the huge backlog of care from several million patients who were unable to receive appointments or have operations during the first peak when NHS services came to a standstill in order to prioritise care for Covid patients. These patients and loved ones will be anxiously waiting and suffering, and for many, their condition will be getting worse, and for some, even threatening their lives.
“Our health service will all at once need to tackle this backlog2 of care, treat Covid patients, contend with the seasonal flu and prepare for further local or national outbreaks of coronavirus.
“As such, the announcement of an additional £3 billion in funding for the NHS must be accompanied by details of how and where exactly this money will be spent and how and whether this is enough to meet these challenges. Currently, the Westminster government is silent on additional funding for general practice to cope with its workload, as well as community care and social care settings – sectors which too will be in desperate need of support in the run-up to winter.
“Giving local authorities in England the additional powers to ensure they can manage any spikes in their local area is a welcome step, but it must be underpinned with adequate resources, clear, localised data, and a robust and effective test, track and trace system at a time when the Government is silent on the use of its much-touted app.
“The safety of the public and the ability of the NHS to cope this coming winter is very much dependent on the Government getting the easing of lockdown right to limit as much as possible the impact of the virus in the coming months.”
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.
- Transcript of PM’s speech.
- BMA report: The hidden impact of COVID-19 on patient care in the NHS in England