In a poll, The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) asked doctors “Do you feel the NHS is well prepared for coronavirus?” Only 8 of the 1618 respondents answered that they did feel it was prepared.
A more detailed survey followed which has received 88 responses at the time of this release.
Many doctors raised similar concerns around inability to cope with increased demand, lack of intensive care and high-dependency beds, poor staffing levels, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and inappropriate advice to attend A&E/GP practices being given by NHS 111. There were also concerns about a lack of laboratory capacity to test for potential cases in the event of a pandemic.
Doctors working across the country have said:
“Our local hospital seems to have been constantly on ‘internal incident declared’ (no beds available) for the past 6 months – how exactly can the NHS cope with the surge in demand coronavirus will bring? I very much worry that there will be nowhere near the ITU beds and staff required.”
“As frontline staff we have not been provided with any protection equipment and remain at high risk of either becoming unwell or becoming asymptomatic spreaders.”
“GP’s being inadequately prepared with no access to PPE. Not enough ITU beds in a system which is already under massive strain. 111 not following protocol and still sending patients to GP practices/A&E/OOO with symptoms having been to a symptomatic area”
Dr Rinesh Parmar, Chair of The Doctors’ Association UK and an anaesthetic doctor said:
“The NHS has already been brought to its knees and many frontline doctors fear that our health system simply won’t cope in the event of a Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
With nearly 10,000 doctor vacancies and 43,000 nurse vacancies the NHS is already understaffed to deal with demand. A&E waiting times are the worst on record. Intensive care units are at capacity and are even struggling to admit patients who are critically unwell or awaiting cancer surgery.
Doctors have been shouting this from the rooftops for some time. Many hoped the threat of COVID-19 would prompt an honest conversation to address the issue of critical care capacity and our ability to look after our sickest patients. By simply saying ‘the NHS is well prepared to deal with Coronovirus’ it seems that yet again doctors’ concerns have been brushed under the carpet.”
Dr Jenny Vaughan, Law and Policy lead The Doctor’s Association UK said:
“Plans to enlist retired doctors in the case of a Coronavirus outbreak seem ill-thought out; not least because the virus has a higher mortality in older persons. Many doctors have been forced to retire early due to an equally ill-thought out pensions tax. That problem has not yet been fixed. In order to allow doctors to return to the NHS to help treat Coronavirus our new chancellor must first find a long-term solution to the NHS pensions tax crisis in the imminent Budget.”
Dr Yaso Browne, GP Lead at DAUK said:
“Community care workers will continue to do their upmost to safeguard the most vulnerable in society but with 6000 GP vacancies and the best treatment for COVID-19 being isolation, both healthcare workers and the community need robust plans from the Government to contain what is possible. We have GPs being quoted as feeling ‘scared’ with ‘zero protection’ in the knowledge that the current plans to manage a possible future pandemic are unclear.”