NHS stats highlight “brutal impact” of Covid-19 on healthcare services and patient care, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from BMA 

Location: England
Published: Thursday 11 June 2020

Responding to the latest NHS performance stats1, which show a significant drop in the number of GP referrals for cancer treatment and specialist care, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said:

“These NHS performance figures lay bare the brutal impact of Covid-19 on our healthcare services and patient care. They show only the early weeks of the pandemic but nonetheless, they confirm the fears of doctors that significant numbers of patients will not have received the care needed and that their conditions could have worsened.

“The shocking drop in the number of GP referrals for cancer treatment – down 60 percent from last year, and GP referrals to specialist care – down three quarters from last year, is incredibly concerning. It is, therefore, vital that services resume as soon as possible and that the Government provides the NHS with the support, resources and capacity for this to happen safely whilst the pandemic continues. The longer the backlog persists, patients’ conditions will grow more acute or go undiagnosed.

“Doctors have expressed growing concern with the findings of a recent BMA survey2 revealing that almost of third of doctors said the impact of Covid-19 was significantly worsening care for non-covid patients.

“The staggering reduction in patients attending A&E is of great concern, meaning that patients with emergencies are not being treated at a time when overall excess mortality in the UK is amongst the highest in Europe.

“Worryingly, more than two thirds of doctors who responded to a recent BMA survey3 said they had either little or no confidence that the expected demand could be properly managed. As such, we need meaningful conversations between Government and frontline clinicians about how we can, together, begin to tackle the backlog. This will require transparency around capacity and the workforce crisis, and the need to invest in infrastructure that can meet the healthcare needs of patients.

“The Government must also commit to publishing comprehensive and timely data, including the datasets which have been paused throughout Covid-19, and provide a clear picture of the state of the workforce which will be crucial going forward.”


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. NHS England hospital activity data and cancer waiting times data
  2. Link to BMA survey 4th June findings - can be found here
  3. Link to BMA survey - 16th May findings - can be found here

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