Thousands of doctors have ‘little or no confidence’ in the NHS’ ability to provide safe patient care

by BMA media team Press release from the BMA.
Published: Saturday 16 May 2020

Thousands of doctors have told a BMA survey they have no confidence in being able to manage patient demand in the coming weeks and that caring for those with Covid-19 has severely impacted the treatment and care available for other patients.

More than ten thousand doctors took part in the survey over two thirds said they had either little or no confidence that the expected demand could be properly managed.

Over 50 percent said the care for patients without Covid-19 already suffering with the situation in their hospital Trust, GP practice or local NHS was getting worse.

These findings come just two days after NHS England published a ‘road map’ to support the resumption of routine operations and treatments over the next six weeks.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA council chair said,
“When thousands of doctors are telling us they continue to have little or no confidence in being able to manage the levels of demand for care from patients without Covid 19, it begs the question, ‘What evidence is the Westminster government using to believe that normal NHS services can resume?’”

“Last month the Government insisted that before lockdown was eased, the NHS must be able to cope. These results clearly show that doctors on the frontline feel this is not the case. The BMA is regularly surveying doctors across the UK and this is the second time they are telling us about very low confidence levels.”

“The lowest level of confidence is for managing demand in the community – care homes for example - with 69% saying they are not very or not at all confident. And in terms of patients being able to have tests, scans and other diagnostic type treatment, around 60% of doctors said they had little or no confidence that demand could be properly managed.”

“And yet only days ago, NHS England produced a ‘road map’ to support healthcare services to resume routine treatments and operations in the next six weeks. Patients who have not had the care they needed are understandably worried and a delay in any care is a risk, but it is equally wrong to raise expectation in this way if there is simply no way that the demand can be met.”

Dr Nagpaul continued:

“Doctors are also telling us that caring for patients with Covid 19, not surprisingly means the care and treatment of those non-Covid patients, is already suffering. 55% of doctors told us that the situation in their hospital trust, GP practice or local NHS was getting worse.This is heart-breaking to doctors, indeed all healthcare workers, who want nothing more than to provide the best care for their patients and to avoid delays in essential scans for disease such as cancer.”

These responses from doctors underpin the fact that NHS England’s road map gives no detail about how all patients will be cared for in an environment free of infection, how the risk of infection will be mitigated and how the Government intends to provide enough PPE not just for Covid care but for all those staff and patients in non-Covid areas.

With more than 7 million people on hospital waiting lists, the Westminster Government must set out a clear and tangible plan of how the system will have capacity both for the ongoing demands of the pandemic, as well as resuming services for those patients who are left in limbo.

These findings are part of a wider survey by the BMA which has been conducted every two weeks since the crisis begun. It has been tracking how doctors are responding to the pandemic and the impact it is having on their working lived and wellbeing.


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.

  1. 10,328 doctors took part in the survey, 8,229 in England, between 13 and 15 May. All figures referred to are for England responses only.
  2. For the question: “To what extent is prioritisation of patients with possible or confirmed COVID-19 in your place of work or the local NHS affecting the care available to those patients with no COVID-19 symptoms?” 2,051 (28.95%) of doctors said “significantly worsening” and 1,835 (25.9%) said “slightly worsening”.
  3. For the question: “How confident are you about your ability to manage patient demand as normal NHS services are resumed?”

    In your own department: 1306 (18.61%) of doctors were not at all confident. 2,347 (33.44%) were not very confident.

    In your local health economy: 1,364 (19.67%) of doctors were not all confident. 2,751 (39.68%) were not very confident.

    In community settings, e.g care homes: 1,653 (24.88%) were not at all confident. 2,930 (44.11%) were not very confident
  4. Please contact national press offices for figures for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Read more about the regional breakdown for England.

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