Thousands of doctors say they have not been properly protected from Covid-19 at work, during the pandemic, BMA survey reveals

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Saturday 13 February 2021
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Thousands of doctors have told the BMA they are not fully protected from Covid-19 in their place of work and for many, it’s likely to have been the case since the onset of the pandemic.

The BMA has been regularly surveying doctors across the UK since April of last year to better understand their experiences and the issues they face as they care for patients in various settings, including GP practices and hospitals. In each of the surveys, doctors have been asked a range of questions, including:

Taking everything into account, do you feel safely protected from coronavirus infection in your place of work?

In April of last year, only a little more than 11% of doctors said they felt fully protected. The results of the survey in July 2020 saw that figure rise, but it was still worryingly low - only 41% of doctors who responded said they felt fully protected in their place of work. It’s worth noting, this was when the first wave had passed, and lockdown had been eased.

Since July that figure has continued to decline and in the most recent survey conducted this month, just 2,005 doctors - less than 28% of those who took part, said they felt they were fully protected from the virus in their place of work.

The Chair of the BMA Consultants Committee, Dr Rob Harwood, said:

“No one should have to go to work and not feel safe, but these results show that our doctors, the length and breadth of the country, seem to be doing just that - and that’s a terrible indictment. To be caring for patients, many of whom are seriously ill and need complex care, whilst anxious about the adequacy of your own protection from the virus, should not be happening in a twenty first century health service.

“The BMA has been surveying doctors since April of last year and the results tell a story of real worry – worry founded on the knowledge that some of our colleagues have become seriously unwell or even died, possibly as a result of poor protection form the virus. Doctors have saved countless lives but the cost to their own wellbeing will be immense. It’s unacceptable that we are still seeing just how many doctors are not as well protected as they feel they should be in their workplace; and its gone on for almost a year. Staff should be able to have absolute trust that their welfare is as well protected as it possibly can be while they are at work.

“It’s almost impossible to comprehend the mental anguish to frontline staff caused by the stress of working through this pandemic but it’s time to try. The Government and employers need to produce a credible, practical plan of action to repair the damage to staff trust and ensure that our NHS staff are given the care and attention they need so they in turn can give patients what they need.”   

The BMA is calling for better access to more protective face masks, Covid-secure rest facilities and for doctors to be able to take the leave they haven’t been able to, so far. The Association has seen a steady increase in the number of doctors being supported by the Association’s wellbeing services as well as those contacting the 24-hour helpline. Since the onset of the pandemic, the BMA has consistently lobbied and gained improvements in PPE provision, in testing for health workers, better support and risk assessments for BAME doctors and improved terms and conditions, (including death in service benefits).    


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. 8,153 doctors and medical students took part in the survey between the 3rd and 5th February 2021
  2. Doctors were asked, "Taking everything into account, do you feel safely protected from coronavirus infection in your place of work?"

Fully protected:             27.97%   2005 responses

Partly protected:            64.06%   4606 responses

Not at all                       7.77%     557 responses

3. PDF of all questions asked and responses