The Government ‘failed in its duty of care’ to doctors in its handling of the pandemic, a report by the BMA has said.
UK governments and system leaders must now be ‘honest’ with the public about the need for a ‘realistic’ approach to returning to non-Covid care, and support for systems to work through the backlog, the BMA added.
The doctors’ union has today published two reports into: how well doctors were protected; and the effect of the pandemic on the profession, with a further three reports set to be published.
BMA chair of council Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the evidence in the reports shows ‘unequivocally’ that ‘the UK Government failed in its duty of care to the medical profession’.
Respondents to a BMA call for evidence repeatedly cited a lack of infection prevention and control, including insufficient PPE and Government messaging.
The reports also said:
- Only 59% of ethnic minority doctors in general practice reported having full or adequate PPE as compared to 77% of their white counterparts
- 31% of doctors in primary care felt risk assessments were mostly or completely ineffective
- Risk assessments were not consistently carried out or implemented
A Northern Ireland GP contractor/principal said they were ‘amazed at how paltry’ the PPE was: ‘[I] felt undervalued. Like going over the top in WW1 with a bow and arrow.’
Another said: ‘We were sent six pairs of gloves and six aprons in an envelope approximately three weeks after the start of lockdown.’
Dr Nagpaul said that doctors were ‘desperately let down by the UK Government’s failure to adequately prepare for the pandemic, and their subsequent flawed decision-making, with tragic consequences’.
One of the BMA’s reports said: ‘Governments and system leaders across the UK must be prepared to have an honest conversation with the public about the need for a realistic approach to restoring non-Covid care, and support for systems to tackle the backlog.’
It added that the wellbeing of doctors must be seen as a ‘critical priority’ for the ‘effectiveness of health services both now and in the future’.
It said: ‘Asking too much of doctors too soon could not only negatively impact patient safety but could potentially increase already lengthy waiting times if staff leave or are signed off due to exhaustion – something both patients and doctors want to avoid.’
When staff choose to leave, other staff ‘become more emotionally distressed due to the higher workload, which leads to increased pressure and more staff leaving, and the problem continues’, the report added.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said in an exclusive interview at Pulse LIVE: ‘We thought we were well prepared [for the pandemic]. In reality, we weren’t.’
Last week, the elective waiting list hit a record high of 6.4 million patients.