THE NHS is in danger of being overwhelmed by a surge of both Covid-19 and non-Covid cases, a new British Medical Association (BMA) survey has found, revealing members’ deep fears of its ability to cope with increasing demand.
Appearing on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme yesterday, BMA Council Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul blamed the dangerous situation on staff shortages following ten years of massive Tory cuts.
He was asked: ‘What I don’t understand though, is that the Nightingale Hospitals which were built during the first wave are effectively still on standby. Why don’t we just increase capacity if it’s needed?’
He replied: ‘The biggest limiting factor is workforce, because unfortunately we entered the pandemic with a shortage of doctors and nurses, I think about 18,000 vacancies in the NHS, you just can’t have a doctor or nurse in two sites at once.’
The survey of almost 8,000 doctors and medical students from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, was conducted in the last week.
Launching the survey results: Dr Nagpaul said: ‘Whether it’s Covid or cancer, we are extremely worried that there may not be the capacity in our health service to provide care for everyone who needs it if the infection rates continue to soar.
‘Our NHS and its staff are already at the point of collapse; with many hospitals full to capacity at the very start of the busy winter period, these tougher measures are necessary to give the health service a fighting chance to cope with the incredible demand it is experiencing and will likely continue to.
‘Doctors are telling us they’re already seeing significant increases in the number of Covid and non-Covid patients, and that they don’t believe their hospitals or practices will be able to cope in the new year.
‘What’s crucial to understand is that when we talk about protecting the NHS, this is not an abstract concept, a set of initials or a building somewhere. The NHS provides care for us all, when we most need it. If it doesn’t cope, the consequences impact on each and every one of us; real people will suffer.
Among the key findings:
- More than half (52%) of respondents said they had seen a significant increase in the number of Covid cases in the last two weeks;
- One in three (34%) said current levels were higher than during the same point during the first wave;
- A third (33%) of respondents said the level of demand for care of patients without Covid is now considerably higher than before the pandemic began.
The survey findings paint a picture of a health service struggling to cope with both the direct impact of Covid-19 and the huge backlog of other treatments put on hold by the pandemic, and doctors distressed at not being able to provide the levels of care they want to and that patients deserve to receive. Survey findings revealed:
- Nine in 10 (88%) respondents said they felt uneasy that they could not provide the standard of care they wanted during the pandemic;
- A third (33%) said this unease had got worse since October;
• Thousands of doctors said they are not confident of their department or practice’s ability to manage either Covid-related (40%), or non-Covid (51%), demand in the coming weeks.