DOCTORS’ union the Medical Association (BMA) underlined their demand on Thursday for a pay increase for NHS staff.
Responding to a recent analysis by the Labour Party which warns of a further exodus of NHS staff if there is not a increase in pay, BMA consultants committee chair, Dr Rob Harwood said: ‘This analysis from Labour is alarming and adds weight to the voice of the healthcare profession who are seriously concerned over the potential exodus of staff as the government continue to ignore calls for a pay increase.
‘While the public stayed at home, it was doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who put themselves at risk against this deadly virus to care for patients on wards and care homes across the country.
‘These figures highlight just how precarious a state the NHS workforce is in and, with the largest ever backlog of care to contend with, the government cannot afford to add more pressure to an already exhausted and depleted workforce.
‘The government’s suggestion of a 1% pay rise for all NHS staff is laughable, if not insulting and is as good as pushing them out the door.
‘The BMA recently launched its Fairness for the Frontline campaign, which calls for a 5% pay rise for consultants to recognise the extraordinary efforts that consultants have gone to throughout the pandemic providing clinical excellence and leadership.
‘The government must listen the voices of doctors, nurses, this analysis from Labour and importantly, the public, who support an overall pay rise for NHS staff, and give them the fair reward they deserve.’
Meanwhile, the BMA have highlighted the worsening health inequalities in society.
Doctors are warning that UK governments must urgently take action to address health inequalities, that have worsened in the pandemic, and impacted societies’ most vulnerable individuals.
In a report launched yesterday: ‘Mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on health inequalities’, the BMA outlines a range of measures for governments across the UK to ensure that those who have been most impacted by Covid-19 are protected in the immediate and longer term.
Doctors fear that the unacceptable inequalities that existed before the pandemic will only worsen for families who have been pushed into poverty, and disadvantaged communities that face further hardship due to job losses and Covid-19’s socio-economic impact.
School closures and the knock-on effect on vulnerable children’s wellbeing and mental health; the disproportionate impact of the virus itself on Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities; and regional variations in death rates between people living in the least and most deprived areas of the country, risks negatively impacting the nation’s future health if action isn’t urgently taken.
The BMA wants to use this as an opportunity to work towards addressing the underlying inequalities which lead to unacceptable and avoidable differences in life expectancy, as well as quality of life across all communities.
The restructure of Public Health England presents a vital opportunity to make addressing health inequalities a central part of the national approach to health and wellbeing and must not be overshadowed by a narrow focus on health security and infectious diseases.
As England prepares to exit its third lockdown and emerge from the pandemic, the BMA has outlined in its report a number of key recommendations to ensure the UK can deliver on the ‘levelling up’ agenda and build back better after the pandemic, including:
1. Develop a comprehensive cross-government strategy – inclusive of civil servants and politicians – to reduce health inequalities as a matter of urgency.
2. Ensure vulnerable groups are appropriately supported to access Covid-19 vaccines – including to overcome vaccine hesitancy – and are not adversely affected by measures taken to tackle the virus.
3. Limit as far as possible the worsening of health inequalities due to the pandemic as a priority, including:
- Investing in mental health services to meet increased demand;
- reducing income insecurity by making the Universal Credit uplift permanent;
- funding support programmes which go beyond educational support for vulnerable children who have been particularly affected by the lockdowns.
Dr Penelope Toff, Co-Chair of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said: ‘There’s no doubt that the pandemic has perpetuated and worsened health inequalities within the UK and it’s simply unacceptable that in a country of such means we’ve seen so many people, including children, living in poverty and unable to access basic necessities such as sufficient and nourishing food.
‘Many of these underlying inequalities are avoidable and remediable and there is both a moral and economic case for them to be addressed without delay.
‘The pandemic has highlighted existing difficulties faced by many people because of their living circumstances and has disproportionately affected them, both in terms of severe illness from Covid-19 and as a result of the measures which were rightly put in place to control the spread of the virus and that now needs to be acknowledged and put right.
‘We know that socio-economic inequality alone costs the NHS approximately £4.8bn per year, and so as the country moves forward, it’s important that the government takes a much more proactive approach to tackling these underlying inequalities, which have been made worse by Covid-19 and must now be viewed as a priority.
‘As such, we hope that this report launched by the BMA today will help towards setting out the actions which are needed as we exit lockdown.
‘This report follows on from our paper setting out the BMA’s approach to easing lockdown restrictions and forms part of our longer term work on health inequalities, led by the BMA’s President Sir Harry Burns.
‘In the immediate recovery phase, the government in England must begin to make good on its promise to build back better by ‘building back fairer,’ with a clear commitment to a more equitable society with better health outcomes for all.’
- A £100m recovery plan to help the NHS recover from the pandemic has been announced by the Welsh government.
The plan details the impact of Covid-19 on the NHS and aims to rebuild services and reduce waiting times.
Record numbers of patients are waiting for hospital treatment after many faced cancellations and delays as ‘exhausted’ healthcare staff tackled the pandemic.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said it would still be ‘a long journey’ to recovery.
NHS Wales chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall said there was an ‘opportunity to change for the better’.
But he warned staff were exhausted, and tackling waiting lists could take five years.
Writing in the recovery plan, Dr Goodall said the response to the pandemic had ‘been nothing short of incredible’.
‘The NHS, and all of its social care partners including the independent and third sectors, have demonstrated their ability to do things at scale and pace,’ he said.
Dr Goodall said the pandemic showed how technology and greater collaboration presented opportunities to improve the way the health and care system worked in future.
The document details the health inequalities which have been highlighted by the pandemic, including the impact on Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and children who live in areas of social deprivation.
It said the recovery of services must include a focus on children’s mental health, as well as practical actions to address racial inequality.
It also includes the publication of new quality statements, which set out in more detail the outcomes that should be expected for cancer and heart conditions.
Demand on cancer services reduced during the pandemic, with fewer people going to see their GP with concerns about symptoms.
In the 10 months to December 2020, about 30,000 fewer people than expected in Wales were identified with suspected cancers – about 18% lower than the same period in 2019.
Doctors fear people were reluctant to come forward with symptoms because of the pandemic.
The document said more would be done to encourage people to come forward, and it will develop the quality statement for cancer to address longer-term challenges.
The Wales Cancer Alliance said: ‘Wales could soon be the only UK nation without a cancer strategy, with the Welsh government opting to publish a brief quality statement … instead of replacing its detailed cancer plan.
‘This is despite stark and repeated warnings from the 20 charities in the Wales Cancer Alliance coalition that the statement does not go far enough.
‘While the alliance welcomes the NHS Covid recovery plan, also published today by the Welsh government, this plan covers the immediate recovery from the pandemic and does not have the long-term vision in cancer services Wales needs.’
The recovery plan said there was a ‘fundamental need’ to change the way planned services were delivered and in order to tackle the backlog of treatments it said interim measures would require working with ‘partner organisations who can provide capacity quickly’.
Other priorities noted in the recovery plan include identifying the ‘hidden harms’ caused by Covid in the social care sector, increasing the collaborative working that has developed during the pandemic and recognising carers through pay, including a move towards paying the real living wage.
It also highlights the need to expand diagnostic services such as endoscopy.
Dr Olwen Williams, vice-president for Wales at the Royal College of Physicians, said supporting the mental health and well-being of NHS staff was important.
‘If there’s one lesson we should learn from the past year, it’s that we must value our staff,’ she said.
‘They have poured heart and soul into patient care during Covid-19, and they deserve compassionate leadership.
‘This recovery plan must be backed up by action from health boards. Investment in more staff, flexible working, protected time for research and education – these things are vital.’