BMA sets out path to recovery

by Jennifer Trueland

Doctors leaders have called for Scotland to move cautiously towards resuming NHS services and to take steps to reduce risks to staff and patients.

Location: Scotland
Published: Wednesday 3 June 2020
Lewis Morrison portrait

The BMA in Scotland has published five ‘key asks’ which it says should be considered before the health service emerges from the emergency footing. These include ensuring adequate PPE (personal protective equipment), safeguarding staff wellbeing, giving clarity about the roles of healthcare workers, and effective communication with the public.

The organisation was responding to a consultation by the Scottish Government on how services should be restored, and its key asks largely complement the Scottish Government’s own paper on the issue, called Re-mobilise, Recover, Re-design.

Up and running

It comes as the latest results of a tracker survey of around 900 doctors in Scotland showed many feared their ability to manage demand as the NHS moved out of emergency arrangements. The tracker also highlighted doctors’ concern about the NHS’s ability to cope with a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

BMA Scotland council chair Lewis Morrison (pictured above) said it was vital to get the NHS back up and running as quickly as could be safely done.

‘We completely understand the desire to resume more normal NHS services as lock down begins to ease,’ he said. ‘But this has to be carefully balanced with the huge scale and complexity of the challenge we face.’

‘Many doctors are concerned about how they will cope with surges in demand as the NHS begins to open up, and a second wave of coronavirus remains a real possibility. We already know the NHS cannot cope with a high level of coronavirus as well as everything else.’

Dr Morrison said there were a huge range of issues to consider, from social distancing in NHS settings, to the need to give doctors and staff a chance to recuperate from the rigours of dealing with the pandemic. ‘We also need guaranteed ongoing supplies of PPE and robust testing and isolation of patients before procedures such as operations,’ he added.

‘We must move cautiously and carefully and balance the need to see patients with the need to minimise further COVID-19 infection and pushing already tired and stretched staff and services beyond what they are capable of.

‘Our key asks complement the principles of Scottish Government's own paper, but we want to emphasise the importance of the safety and welfare of healthcare staff, and the crucial time they will need to recover. We also need politicians across the board to work in a constructive manner with each other and ensure there is consistent and realistic messaging to the public about what is possible in the short, medium and long term.’

Balanced capacity

The key asks can be found in full in this blog by Lewis Morrison but the headline points are:

  • As services are restored there needs to be a realistic and cautious approach to balancing COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 capacity and workforce deployment
  • There must be ongoing adequate PPE for health and care workers, and measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus within the NHS
  • Comprehensive measures must be taken to safeguard staff wellbeing
  • Clarity must be given to healthcare workers about their current and future roles, and plans to restore education, training and career progression
  • There must be effective and transparent public communication so that patients understand what they can and cannot expect from the NHS at this time and in the foreseeable future.