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The Doctors’ Association UK echoes the concern of the NHS confederation report “NHS reset” with regards to the “triple whammy” that threatens the NHS. Frontline NHS workers have been concerned about the combination of local coronavirus outbreaks, a second wave of COVID-19 and an ever-increasing backlog of NHS patients needing planned treatment such as surgery creating a health timebomb. DAUK raised these issues at its recent oral submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus.
The Doctors’ Association UK welcomes the publication of the Department of Health’s PPE strategy. We wholeheartedly support planning for PPE provision for a winter in which the NHS is likely to experience a second wave of COVID-19. However, DAUK does have some reservations regarding the information published.
Women and those of a BAME background have, in particular, experienced issues with appropriately fitted PPE. This represents the majority of NHS workers and these issues were raised in April 2020. However, 6 months later, this strategy promises a data gathering exercise rather than a concrete solution. A promised project to improve mask designs will not deliver in time to help women and those from a BAME background given that coronavirus cases are already increasing.
DAUK is also concerned that there is a lack of acknowledgment regarding the misteps taken in the early phase of the pandemic response. A cardinal rule in medicine is to analyse and learn from one’s mistake and therefore do not repeat the same again. Without accepting the mistakes made regarding the wastage of taxpayers money in purchasing of unusable PPE, coupled with a lack of transparency regarding the tendering of such contracts, the worry is that the same errors will occur, with frontline NHS staff suffering.
DAUK does welcome the concept of re-usable PPE, particularly concerning the environmental impact of such an idea. However, we would seek assurances that a robust process of decontamination and involvement of trained Public Health England staff to ensure its safety.
Ahead of that announcement, Dr Sophie Rowlands – who sits on the GP advisory board of the Doctors’ Association UK – said there was a “fairly stable” supply of PPE.
However, she said that government failings during the pandemic had undermined doctors’ confidence in ministers and their assurances.
“I think at the moment confidence in the government is at an all-time low,” Rowlands said.
“We were promised a ‘world-beating’ test and trace system, which has failed to materialise.
“The overall idea is that we will not be doing what we did the first time,” said Lewis, who works in London and is the general secretary of the Doctors’ Association UK. “Some people will have to be redeployed, but it won’t be on the scale that it was before.”
Her chief concern is for patients without the virus. “I’m hopeful that we’ve learned some lessons from the first wave. From a personal point of view, I just want to continue treating cancer patients – my big fear this time around is for non-Covid patients.”
A survey of 750 doctors by lobby group Doctors Association UK (DAUK) revealed “hundreds” of doctors could not access tests. Three quarters who needed tests were not able to get them, which DAUK president Samantha Batt-Rawden called a “disgrace.”
It cited examples of a Gloucester GP who had to self-isolate for 6 days before a slot was available nearly 200 miles away in Norwich. Another doctor spoke of the only option being “an appointment in 90 minutes. It is a 419 mile journey to get there and takes seven hours.”
Dolin Bhagawati writes in The Independent that contracting external parties to make PPE, run our drive-in testing centres, and build a Test and Trace programme didn’t work. It’s time to learn from these expensive mistakes