Responding to a letter from NHSEI to all healthcare trusts advising that the NHS is now moving into the second phase of its response to COVID-19, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of BMA council, said:
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the efforts of NHS staff to adapt to this crisis have been nothing short of remarkable.
“Doctors are acutely aware of the impact that prioritisation of COVID has had on non-COVID patients whose care has been consequently delayed and health needs not met. As the NHS begins to resume some normal services, it remains imperative that doctors and all health and care staff are given proper protection against infection from COVID-19 both for their own safety and crucially to prevent spread to other non-COVID patients as they increasingly access services
“This means that the issues surrounding supply of adequate protective equipment must be resolved urgently in advance of this next phase.
“NHS England has heeded the BMA’s call to direct all NHS providers to risk assess healthcare workers and in particular BAME staff who are at greatest risk of serious infection and even death. However, the letter makes no mention of how providers should assess risk, and the BMA has already called on NHS England to develop a national risk assessment framework so that this can be done with objectivity and consistency across the NHS. This would take into account ethnicity, age, sex, and other medical conditions, as well as nature of work, risk of exposure and other factors. Those at highest risk should be protected from working in infectious areas and redeployed to non-COVID care or work remotely.
“Also, with so many resources rightly directed toward helping the NHS cope with this unprecedented challenge, it has meant that many non-COVID-19 patients have been unable to access treatments or have been deterred from attending hospital or contacting their GP practice.
“It is important that we look to address this backlog before it becomes unmanageable, however, we must not take our eye off the fight against COVID-19.
“Doctors in hospitals and GP practices must be confident that they will be fully supported with sufficient resources and safe staffing levels, to help ensure patients can access care and treatments as they would do prior to the pandemic. However, it is vital that NHS leaders listen to frontline clinicians to ensure that local decisions on redeploying capacity reflect what staff are experiencing on the ground.
“Healthcare workers must also be protected against stress, burnout and mental ill health as doctors continue to go above and beyond to help tackle this pandemic.
“While doctors have stepped up to the challenge of being adaptable and working in new ways and roles as a result of the national effort against COVID-19, it is vital that current working patterns do not automatically become the new norm and nationally agreed contracts remain as they were, although doctors and the BMA will continue to be flexible for the period of the emergency.”
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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