This site is intended for health professionals only

High-profile GPs warn Government against second Covid lockdown

The Government must consider whether another Covid-19 lockdown would cause more harm than good to the population’s ‘health and wellbeing’, according to a group of nearly 70 GPs led by high-profile names.

In a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock on Saturday, media doctors Dr Ellie Cannon and Dr Phil Hammond urged the Government to consider non-Covid harms and deaths ‘with equal standing’ as reported deaths from Covid.

The letter, signed by 66 GPs, said: ‘Restrictions and lockdown have recognised value in pandemic control and we fully supported the first lockdown when little was known about the virus. 

‘The position now is transformationally different: after the short, initial lockdown phase, the harms to long term health and wellbeing begin to outweigh the benefits.’

It added: ‘Now is a critical pivotal point: we must recognise our duty to do no harm.’

Other signatories of the letter included Tower Hamlets GP and chair of London’s 32 CCGs Professor Sir Sam Everington and chair of the National Association of Sessional GPs Dr Richard Fieldhouse, as well as Kent portfolio GP Dr Stephanie deGiorgio.

GPs are concerned that a ‘one-track’ response to rising cases ‘threatens more lives and livelihoods than Covid-lives saved’, the letter said.

It added that lockdown had created ‘myriad harms, both logged and latent, that need to be balanced with ongoing restrictions and infection control.’

It said examples include:

  • An ‘inflation’ of acute cardiovascular deaths, ‘most of which did not relate to Covid-19’
  • A ‘concerning signal’ that child suicide death rates increased in the UK during lockdown
  • Higher levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness among the older shielding population with multiple long-term health conditions, as well as reduced physical activity

Less than one in ten of the 30,260 excess deaths that have occurred in private homes since March are due to coronavirus, the letter added.

It said: ‘Covid deaths alone can no longer be used as the unilateral measure of harm. Public health goes beyond deaths and ICU beds. 

‘We do not wish to undermine the seriousness of pandemic management but the wider harm to babies, children, young people and adults of all ages can no longer be ignored.’

Dr Cannon said: ‘[The] chief medical officer has talked of the fine path to tread between Covid harms and non-Covid risks, but when professionals try and discuss this they are labelled a Covid-denier or accused of wanting to kill someone’s granny.

‘It is important the middle ground view is heard and GPs have that eye on everyone in the community from cradle to grave. I believe there are no generalists advising the Government.’

Dr Hammond added: No-one sensible is suggesting we allow the virus to ‘run wild’, but our pandemic management needs to be more holistic.

‘Covid is just one of many serious threats to public health. Cancer, heart disease, obesity, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, mental illness, pollution, abuse etc. If you relentlessly publish the data on one risk whilst overlooking the others, more people die from forgotten risks.’

It comes as chief medical officer Chris Whitty last week urged patients to continue to visit their GP despite the ‘direction of travel’ for Covid-19 infections going ‘in the wrong direction’.

And the BMA has warned that GP practices will not cope with a second wave of Covid-19 unless they receive more funding for costs, more support for staff and a reduction in bureaucracy.

Read the full letter



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Cezary Klejnotowski 5 October, 2020 11:44 am

”Less than one in ten ” because lockdown -late but it has been done ,

David Church 5 October, 2020 12:06 pm

They are wrong, the only way to protect the population from Covid-identified and Covid-related deaths and other harms was, and still is, a proper full lock-down, with enforcement. This never happened because government protected airports, allowed unsafe air-travel, and showed such bad examples of ministers and high-profile peaople saying it was only a minor infection and actually travelling about spreading it.
Proper lock-down could have, and still could, eradicate general community transmission wihtin about 8-10 weeks, if properly imposed and monitored, which the original lock-down never was- it was never taken seriodusly enough.
Infection spread was encouraged by ‘eat out to help out’ and certain employers deliberately spreading it.
The economy is being damaged, not by the temporary effects of a temporary proper full lockdown, but by the effects of encouraging spread of an infection with high fatality and high long-term morbidity rates, instead of protecting th eeconomy and the population from this dreadful outcomes.
We are now in many, variable, confusing, local lockdowns, which are damaging the economy and losing us jobs, lives, and security, because of this poor management. A full proper lockdown for 3 months could allow us all to return to near-enough normal activity and start rebuilding the economy in time for Christmas – but the Government, and a group of GPs now too, are heading instead for severe and long-lasting ongoing damage to the economy and peoples health and it IS KILLING OFF THE GRANNIES unecessarily. To say otherwise is just another of these Covid-lies the government is trying hard to spread : such nonsense as schools being covid-secure when no effective protection was introduced; saying kiddies can’t catch or transmit it, when we know they can and do die of ti too; and by the sabotage of the effective contact tracing systems that should have protected us, and stupid schemes like ‘eat out to help out’ spreading it.
The country is morally bankrupt, but, which is worst, demonstrating a clear preference for political rhetoric over common sense and clinical knowledge. The current strategy will cause reater economic damage and health and mental adversity than a properly managed lockdown could ever do.
Look at other countries who are controlling their infection rates much better than Britain.
Thsi Government is MURDERING GRANNIES, and blacks, and anyone else they don’t much feel for!

John Graham Munro 5 October, 2020 12:50 pm


Lise Hertel 5 October, 2020 1:02 pm

What David Church said! Couldn’t out it better myself!

Lise Hertel 5 October, 2020 1:02 pm

What David Church said! Couldn’t put it better myself!

Sam Macphie 5 October, 2020 2:07 pm

Everyone’s got an opinion. Well, if Test and Trace had been properly effective very early on, with very fast results from labs and the public responding to isolation regulations immediately, stopping international flights, stopping infected public discharge into care homes, IT and others getting the stats right, including daily numbers infected, (note how at the weekend the numbers infected suddenly rose due to some so-called ‘glitch’, and a host of important measures, (ICU’s too), coming neatly together at the right time, including adequate, good quality PPE supplies, then lockdown might have stood a chance. Quite a lot of ‘ifs’ isn’t it. So, instead maybe take a long, hard look at the bigger picture, the Social Science aspect of C-19: cut deaths.

Kah Wai Lee 5 October, 2020 2:09 pm

Well said David!, the reason why UK in bad shape is because there is no real lockdown. Many only observe lock down when it comes to employment (did not want to work but still be paid in the name of self-isolation) , otherwise, people are out and about doing what they want to do. The classical example is foot-ball gathering! certainly we see this happening in Hessle where people has very little respect for others health and well-being.

Reply moderated
David OHagan 5 October, 2020 2:14 pm

This letter shows that there is a lot of confusion around and that any ‘simple’ approach has too many problems to be convincing.

eg1. excess death; this measures all the deaths as it is understood that the deceased do not wear a label saying why they died. The MCCD is at best an educated guess. When there is a potentially fatal respiratory condition circulating, death may be caused by that respiratory condition even if the person was run over by a bus. Excess death is a measure of the possible upper limit of the death rate caused by the condition. The assumption that all those without covid on mccd died of CVD, is just as mistaken as assuming they all died of covid.
eg2. if a suicide rate amongst young people rose, is the cause ‘lockdown’? or is it ‘brexit’ or ‘exam chaos’? it may have been worse without the intervention we had, or it could be the stress of having to be ‘normal’ when there is a significant threat to life circulating?

Probably the answer would be that we need to involve a system wide response to support the health of the public. This needs to be a professional trained system which interacts with government and health and people at every level. You could perhaps call it a public health system. At some stages and in some places that system could deliver appropriate responses in measured and rational ways. These should take into account ‘politics’ as well and cultural and social needs, as well as health and education.

It is the lack of this joined up approach which is the problem. The refusal to use a rational approach is the key mistake. There are many ‘simple’ and obvious answers, all of which are wrong.

Sam Macphie 5 October, 2020 2:24 pm

So-called experts and groups like SAGE and governments have had a very long time to prepare for a pandemic on this scale- many years: what have they done that’s useful and effective?
Individual GPs have to do their best for the individual patient in front of them to make the best of a rough deal.

john mackay 5 October, 2020 5:12 pm

David Church.
1) Fatality RATES are not high and are anyway difficult to calculate since we have no idea how many people have actually had the virus, and actual fatalities are on a par with the last ‘flu epidemic.
2) Currently no evidence at all of significant long-term morbidity. How could there be, the virus has only been here for 6 months.
3) How do you propose to stop it “killing grannies”? Do you think covid will just vanish? Or do you propose locking up the grannies for the rest of their lives? This is the question that is never answered by lockdown proponents because it’s the elephant in their room.

Meanwhile, in lockdown world, one million women have not had breast screening, resulting in the liklihood that there may be up to 10,000 women walking around with undiagnosed breast cancer, severely damaging their prospects of early and succesful treatment. Similarly in many other areas patients are suffering and dying prematurely due to lockdown.

And as we should all know, the biggest single determinant of health in populations is the economy. The people who will pay for this the most through poor physical and mental health due to poverty, lack of any job prospects and long-term unemployment are a whole generation of our young people. Yes, that lockdown is a great idea.

Jeremy Platt 5 October, 2020 6:00 pm

John Mackay – you’re right. Lockdown does not save lives – unless there is a danger that intensive care services are overwhelmed, and the Nightingale hospitals are one thing the Government has done well – it merely spreads the deaths over a longer time. The proponents of lockdown do indeed fail to answer the question – “after lockdown – then what?” The pandemic is likely to kill 100 000 people whatever we do – decreasing the transmission rate ensures it doesn’t all happen in the same 4 week period, and only herd immunity or immunization will bring it to an end. The educational, economic and social aspirations of an entire generation are being jeopardized for a few thousand nursing home residents (who we now know how to protect) and a few hundred thousand high risk people who can make their own decisions as to whether to shield themselves or not.
David Church – I must take you to task about some of the factoids you’ve got wrong. There is not a high mortality rate at all in the population – in the first wave it was about 0.8% and that was when only people ill enough to being admitted to hospitals. How can you talk about longterm morbidity rates when the damn thing has only been here 7 months? A grand total of 21 children have died within 28 days of a positive test – hardly something that’s going to keep you awake at night when about 3 die on the roads every day of every year. And can we have less of the “murdering grannies and blacks (sic)” rubbish?

Dave Kew 5 October, 2020 6:31 pm

I think they should ban motor cars, very deadly things those cars. I bet 10 people died of them today and another 50 have so called Long Carcrash injuries. Seems the students getting on getting Covid immunity are not the spineless snowflakes – we are.
Sad, people will die, it could be us, but Voltaire- “what cannot be cured must be endured”, And about 100million births since Covid- and many turtles choking on discarded masks. Makes you think.

Nick Mann 5 October, 2020 6:56 pm

What David Church said.

Christine Harvey 5 October, 2020 7:39 pm

What John Mackay said – we cannot lockdown our way out of this and we are causing more harm than good now – quite apart from the trampling over all civil liberties or democratic rights that we just happy to allow now: students locked into halls of residence!! People under observation in care homes to make sure they don’t cuddle. Women deprived of a partner during medically required terminations. The cruelty goes on and on.
The definition of good health is more than not having COVID. Just because you can make up endless rules and regulations doesn’t mean you should.
What kind of country do we want to live in for the sake of vainly trying to stop a highly infectious disease with NO symptoms in over 50% of people – just not possible.

Mark Cathcart 5 October, 2020 8:06 pm

David church:
Not only is your posting wrong on so many levels but it is highly offensive and insulting
I demand your post is removed because it alleges that the government is murdering grannies
This is libellous and wrong
Please pulse remove offensive and hurtful postings such as the one from David church

Guy Wilkinson 6 October, 2020 1:57 pm

Well said Jeremy Platt

Patrufini Duffy 6 October, 2020 4:27 pm

Humans are the problem not the virus. When did Government ever listen to a high profile GP? BTW. All GPs are high.

terry sullivan 7 October, 2020 7:14 pm

nonsense–get back to normal now

Gonzalo Moreno 8 October, 2020 11:02 am

What kind of country do we want to live in for the sake of vainly trying to stop a highly infectious disease with NO symptoms in over 50% of people – just not possible.

It is.

I want to live in New Zealand

Next please…

Christine Harvey 9 October, 2020 1:33 pm

‘I want to live in New Zealand’
Bit easier to lock down when your nearest neighbour is over 900 miles away rather than 26 miles on a stretch of water than a) has a tunnel under it and b) people cross regularly on children’s inflatables
Don’t fancy your chances of getting into New Zealand at the moment as they have cut themselves off from the world!

David Turner 11 November, 2020 1:24 pm

I support this article 100% and I’m sorry David Church you are talking nonsense.

David Turner 11 November, 2020 1:32 pm

…thinking about it I suspect David Church does not believe a word of what he has written and merely wrote it to get a reaction out of us, which seems to have worked !