THE BMA’s just-published Survey of Doctors reveals the depth of the crisis that the Tory government has plunged the NHS into, as a result of its complete lack of preparation for the coronavirus pandemic, despite the grave warnings given to it by the report into the findings of Exercise Cygnus.
Exercise Cygnus took place in October 2016 as a simulation exercise to test the NHS’ preparedness for coping with a pandemic. The lack of preparedness it revealed has been reported in the national press to be ‘too terrifying’ to be made public, and currently there is a legal action taking place to try to secure publication.
The Tory government ignored that report, made no preparations to meet the pandemic and instead continued with its contract war against the junior doctors. The just-published BMA Survey of Doctors now reveals a ‘workforce exhausted and with little confidence that the NHS is coping with the huge backlog of missed, cancelled and postponed care.’
It adds: ‘There are also very real fears that there is neither the capability nor the capacity to manage a second spike in infection levels if that was to occur.’
The BMA survey of more than 7,000 doctors found that ‘64% said there had been a significant increase in demand for non-Covid care and a fifth of doctors said the levels of demand were higher than before the pandemic began.’
It continued to state that ‘just 7% have confidence that their local health economy will be able to manage.’ On the question of coping with a second spike in Covid-19 infections, 50% of doctors said they were either not very or not at all confident.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Council chair said: ‘It’s clear that the NHS is in crisis and doctors are fearful and exhausted. The NHS was an already beleaguered health service with record waits in A&E and hospital waiting lists before this pandemic began …‘The Westminster government has yet to offer any clarity or action plan of how the NHS in England is expected to manage months of cancelled or postponed care; care to be given by already exhausted healthcare staff.
‘We’ve seen the figures showing more than 2 million people waiting for cancer care alone, with overall waiting lists projected to hit 7 million by autumn.
He continued: ‘The BMA wants the Westminster government to publish a credible plan for how the millions of patients awaiting NHS treatment in England in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, are going to get that care.’
The survey asked doctors: ‘How confident are you about your ability to manage patient demand as normal NHS services are resumed?’ 20% of respondents said ‘not at all confident’ and 33% said ‘not very confident’ with regard to their own practice or department.
For the local health economy, these figures were 22% and 39% respectively, and for community settings 22% and 44%.
When asked, ‘How confident are you about your ability to manage patient demand if there is a second peak of Covid-19?’ 19% were not at all confident, 31% were not very confident and 36% were slightly confident.
Among the BMA’s priority demands are:
- Capacity: The NHS redistributed capacity to care for Covid-19 patients during the peak of the pandemic, but at the expense of other treatments and services. The government must commit to giving the NHS whatever resources it needs to tackle the backlog as well as the capacity it needs to meet demand in the long-term.
- Workforce: Additional physical capacity only works if there are staff to provide care – and the system has so far relied on doctors working above and beyond to meet Covid-19 demand. Efforts must be taken to retain, support and protect the valuable staff who have given their all in fighting the pandemic, prioritising their wellbeing and mental health.’
The Tory government is organically incapable of carrying out such a programme. Its sole concern is to boost the profits of the capitalists.
There is only one way to meet and defeat the developing health catastrophe. This is that the trade unions must ditch their current leaders who are obsessed with working with the Tories, and call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government and a socialist planned economy able to maintain and develop the NHS. This is the only way forward!