A major survey of doctors by the BMA shows that a second peak of Covid-19 in England this winter is the number one concern among the medical profession.
Eighty-six per cent of more than 8,000 doctors and medical students who responded said that a second peak was likely or very likely in the next six months.
The findings come after daily cases in the UK soared to more than 3,500 on Friday, and as the R number rose to above 1 for the first time since March – meaning the epidemic is growing once again.
Doctors say the failure of the test and trace system, lack of monitoring and adherence to infection control measures in public places, and confusing public health messages on physical distancing and face coverings, are the main risks to causing a second peak.
When asked about the impact of measures to help prevent a second peak, doctors said that a fit for purpose test and trace system that is accessible and provides timely results, as well as a coherent, rapid and consistent approach to local outbreaks were the two most important.
They also highlighted the need for clearer public information and more visible messaging on rules and guidelines, including those on people mixing with others from outside their household. As new rules come in today limiting the number of people who can meet to six, the BMA says this is an opportunity for the Government to end ambiguity and double down on ensuring people are adhering to infection control measures.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“These results come from thousands of GPs and hospital doctors and expose the fears of frontline clinicians – fears that come from their everyday experiences of treating patients with Covid and watching, the first time round, as the virus spread with alarming speed while the Government delayed efforts to overcome it.
"We, as a profession, want, above all, to avoid a return to the scenes we saw in April, when hospitals were full with Covid-19 patients, and hundreds were dying every day. Meanwhile, thousands of others missed out on vital appointments and procedures as routine care was put on hold.
“But while the forecast in this survey may be bleak, it is not an inevitability if the Government takes decisive, robust and timely action to stamp down the spread of the infection.
“Over recent weeks and months we have seen the failures of test and trace, and ongoing confusing messages to the public on what they can and cannot do, which have resulted in escalation of the virus spreading – these have both been highlighted by doctors as key priorities to get right if we are to stand a chance of preventing a second peak this winter.
“Today’s new measures may attempt to simplify the message and increase enforcement, but it is clear that fundamental other issues urgently need to be tackled. This includes sorting out the test and trace debacle once and for all. It is unacceptable that people and contacts with the infection are not being identified due to failings in the system – which is resulting in the infection spreading blindly.
“With daily cases still alarmingly high, and winter just around the corner, we are at a critical crossroads in the fight against this deadly virus. All efforts must be made to avoid a repeat of the horror and tragedy we all experienced earlier this year.”
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.
- 8,629 doctors and medical students in England took part in the survey between September 9 and 11. Full survey results here.
- On Tuesday 15th September, the BMA holds its Annual Representative Meeting (ARM). For more information on the virtual event and to watch proceedings on the day visit bma.org.uk/arm2020.