NHS staff ‘in the eye of the storm’ need vaccinating without delay, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Tuesday 29 December 2020

Frontline healthcare staff must be given the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible, the BMA is urging the chief executive of NHS England, amid concerns from doctors that they are not being given the opportunity to get protected because of a lack of clear prioritisation or organisation of vaccinations amongst healthcare workers.

In a letter1 to Sir Simon Stevens, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul highlights increasing reports from doctors from across the country who say that they either have not had any notification of access to vaccinations, or that this is being done on a sporadic and ad hoc basis, and without prioritisation.

He writes: “With cases of Covid-19 rocketing and hospitalisation levels higher than in the first peak, healthcare workers are now, as you recognise in your new year message, ‘in the eye of the storm’. It is therefore imperative that frontline staff are protected from the virus so that they can be available to treat patients.

“If healthcare workers fall ill from being infected and are unable to work it will be devastating for the health service at this time of critical pressures and will compound the problems hospitals and GP practices are already struggling with regarding staff shortages. There is also a very real risk of this impeding the roll-out of the vaccine itself which is reliant on delivery by health care staff.

“In the BMA’s December survey2 of doctors in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, around half said that the prevalence of staff on sick leave or self-isolating was having an adverse impact on patient care.”

He adds: “We understand that current stocks of vaccines are limited, but with the realistic hope of further supplies and new vaccines which may be soon approved for use in the NHS, now is the time that we need assurance that frontline staff will be vaccinated in a clearly defined systematic and prioritised way.”

The letter follows an earlier correspondence sent on 21 December, and comes as figures reveal that there are more patients with Covid-19 in hospitals in England than there were during the first peak.

On Tuesday, Sir Simon said in a new year’s address to staff that the NHS was once again in the “eye of the storm” with 2020 being the “toughest year most of us can remember”.

In his letter, Dr Nagpaul adds:

“Your new year message rightly commends the ‘dedication and the commitment of countless NHS staff’, heralding the ‘enormous debt of gratitude’ owed to them – to this end, I repeat my request for confirmation of what arrangements will be put in place to address these concerns. With doctors and their colleagues ‘in the eye of the storm’, there can be no delay.”

Ends

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.

  1. Read the letter here
  2. When asked “Have any clinical colleagues in your department / team / practice been on sick leave or are self-isolating within the last two weeks?”, of the 6,254 who answered:
    - 1,407 (22.5%) said “Yes - with significant impact on patient care”;
    - 1,789 (28.6%) said “Yes - with moderate impact on patient care”;
    - 1,513 (24.2%) said “Yes - but able to manage impact”;
    - 1,163 (18.6%) said “no” and 383 (6.1%) said “don’t know”.
  3. 7,776 doctors and medical students took part in the survey between 14 and 17 December.