Tougher measures welcomed amid fears of capacity to cope

by Keith Cooper

BMA survey results reveal profession’s fears about the previous plan to ease lockdown.

Location: England
Published: Monday 21 December 2020
Busy hospital with blurred figures moving through a reception area

Doctors have welcomed the tightened restrictions announced by the prime minister as many had feared relaxed Christmas arrangements would have overwhelmed the health service and risked lives.

The extent of the profession’s fears about the previous plan to ease lockdown for several days are revealed in a BMA survey of 7,776 doctors and medical students, ran in the days leading up to Saturday’s announcement.

Most respondents (62 percent) said they had seen a significant increase in Covid cases in the previous two weeks. Four out of 10 said they were ‘not confident’ of their department or practice’s ability to manage Covid-related care. A third said the level of demand for care of patients without Covid was ‘considerably higher’ than before the pandemic.

‘I disagree with relaxing the rules for this five-day period over Xmas,’ one said. ‘Work will be even tougher in [January and February] as a result of this easing of rules at Christmas,’ they added. ‘[The] Christmas relaxation is dangerous and irresponsible,’ said another.

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said the survey revealed the level of concerns of doctors in a health service which was already struggling to cope.

‘This weekend’s announcement, while hugely disappointing to the millions of people now having to cancel Christmas plans, affirms that the tightening of the restrictions is absolutely the right decision and one which will save lives,’ he added.

‘This survey reveals a profession fearful not just for the patients we have now, but for those we will soon have to treat in the new year as a result of a rise in infections caused in part by the new strain but also by increased socialising during Christmas.’

The NHS and its staff were ‘at the point of collapse’, he added. ‘We all wanted to have some semblance of Christmas this year but given these latest developments, particularly with the emergence of this new faster spreading strain, the best thing we can do now is stay at home to protect ourselves and our loved ones this year.’