Responding to the publication of the Sue Gray report which found evidence of multiple parties held by senior UK Government officials, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said:
“The Sue Gray report lays bare the scale of the irresponsible behaviour at the heart of UK Government. The arrogance with which senior members held gatherings and toasted colleagues whilst everyone else obeyed rules, often with immense personal sacrifice, is shocking and enraging. Doctors worked tirelessly, exposing them to risk, as their patients were suffering or dying from Covid-19, while senior UK Government officials partied.
“Whilst the Prime Minister’s aides were texting each other that they had ‘got away with’ a drinks party in May 2020 during the first lockdown and that the party was ‘lots of fun,’ doctors and healthcare workers were giving their all – and for some, their lives – to care for their patients, working hour after hour with little or no respite. Many had no time for rest let alone drinks parties. They were holding smart phones and tablets in front of dying patients so that their families, who were not allowed to visit, could say good-bye. They were looking after their own colleagues who had become infected whilst simply doing their job. So for the Prime Minister to say he attended the Downing Street parties ‘just to keep staff morale high’ and ‘to show his staff that they were appreciated for the work they were doing’, shows a total disregard both of his own rules - designed to protect the nation - and the level of real suffering being caused by the virus to people and healthcare workers on the ground. The health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of healthcare workers, as well as their morale, has been wiped out by the past two years and this report serves only to reinforce their feelings that so many in our UK Government have failed in their duty of care .
“On the day in December 2020 when the Prime Minister joined a drinks party for the departure of two No. 10 officials, the deaths of more than 530 people were recorded and more than 18,000 people were in hospital suffering from COVID-19. This was at the same time that the BMA was pleading with the Prime Minister to not relax restrictions over the Christmas period, and much of the country was put into Tier 3 to try to reduce the spread of the virus amid spiralling infection rates. It is appalling to think that with the country in crisis and frontline healthcare staff making daily sacrifices, the most senior figures in government were organising drinks, gatherings and leaving parties.
“The whole profession will surely agree with Sue Gray’s conclusion that, ‘the public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this.’ It also fell short of giving our healthcare staff the support and respect they so rightly deserve.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and 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.