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BMA calls for adequate PPE after at least 34 doctors died

The Government has to protect doctors with appropriate PPE as the country risks a second Covid-19 spike, and as at least 34 doctors have already given their lives, the chair of the BMA has warned in his keynote speech at the annual representative meeting.

In a speech at the virtual conference this morning, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul will also say that the Government has to make good on its promise to give the NHS the funding it needs to respond to the pandemic.

He will say the NHS is gearing up to handle ‘a triple whammy of the non-Covid backlog, the ongoing risk of a second spike, and winter pressures’.

Highlighting ONS findings that an estimated 12,000 patients died from non-Covid causes so far during the pandemic, Dr Nagpaul will say: ‘The pandemic was a shock to the world, but as coronavirus reached our shores, our overstretched NHS already had record waits for operations, cancer treatments and GP appointments. We had 10,000 unfilled doctor vacancies, and only a quarter of Germany’s critical care beds.

‘This lack of capacity forced the NHS to halt so many services during the pandemic, resulting in collateral damage to millions of neglected patients… Indeed, for over three months we didn’t have a National Health Service but primarily a national Covid service.’

The chancellor must now make funding available ahead of winter to ensure that the NHS is fit to respond, Dr Nagpaul will say.

‘The triple whammy of the non-Covid backlog, the ongoing risk of a second spike, and winter pressures makes it imperative that the chancellor Rishi Sunak fulfils the promise of his words and gives the NHS “whatever it needs”. The citizens of this nation must no longer be punished from a failure to properly resource our health service.’

Meanwhile, on protecting doctors and the lack of sufficient PPE for healthcare workers, Dr Nagpaul will say: ‘We have the nation’s back, but the Government must have ours or we will all fall down.’

Highlighting the death toll on colleagues – 90% of whom were from BAME backgrounds – to date in the pandemic, Dr Nagpaul will add: ‘Tragically, significant numbers of our colleagues were not adequately protected. At least 34 have paid the ultimate sacrifice and succumbed to the infection.

‘We owe each doctor who has laid down their life our gratitude, and their loved ones our profound sorrow. Never ever again should doctors and healthcare workers fail to be adequately protected in the course of their duty.’

The BMA’s ARM is being held today as a virtual conference for the first time, with delegates set to vote on motions concerning the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with calls for a public enquiry, and doctor pay, including the potential of taking industrial action.

A poll of thousands of doctors carried out by the BMA ahead of the ARM showed that the vast majority fear a second Covid-19 spike this winter.

Last month, Dr David Wood from North Wales became the 13th GP to have died after contracting Covid-19, although he was infected in hospital while being treated as a patient rather than in his line of work.

A total of 12 other GPs, the majority of whom were from BAME backgrounds, have died after contracting Covid. Pulse has shared tributes to each of them here.