That is the warning contained in guidance from the BMA, which sets out 10 principles to be followed during the coming months to ensure patient care is safeguarded and healthcare workers are given the support they need, as the health service aims to restart more non-COVID-19 care.
The principles suggest managers should take a realistic and cautious approach, there must be adequate PPE (personal protective equipment) for health and care workers, decisions about staffing levels and redeployment must be safe and made with employee representatives and measures must be taken to safeguard staff wellbeing.
The guidance also suggests clarity must be given to healthcare workers about the future contractual position and plans to restore training and career development.
The principles, drawn up by doctors leaders, call for ‘effective and transparent’ public communication so that patients know what they can and cannot expect, increased remote working where clinically appropriate, and local decisions to be guided by clinical expertise.
The guidance also asks the Government to support and enhance local public health services and ensure there is adequate capacity to test, trace and quarantine, as well as ensuring a strategy is in place to be sure that restarting non-COVID work does not exacerbate health inequalities.
Last week NHS England launched a ‘road map’ which set out a series of measures intended to help hospitals plan to increase routine operations and treatment.
The BMA guidance says: ‘The NHS is still dealing with the incredibly difficult task of responding to COVID-related demand, and there will be risks and challenges in pivoting back to more routine care. Politicians and healthcare leaders must be realistic about how much capacity the NHS has, given that services have been stretched thinly in many areas to deal with coronavirus.
‘Doctors and other healthcare workers have been going above and beyond to ensure the NHS can cope with the pandemic, and this means they have been working in intense and stressful environments for many weeks. Bank holidays have been cancelled for many doctors. It is vital therefore that steps are taken to safeguard the wellbeing of healthcare workers as part of this phase of the NHS’s response.’