The Government contributed to the UK’s appalling Covid death toll by chronically starving the NHS of the resources it required pre-pandemic, the UK’s top GP will say today.
But, addressing the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting (ARM), council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul will signal doctors have now had enough of the situation.
He will argue that all parts of the NHS had been starved, with insufficient hospital and community facilities and almost 90,000 staff vacancies even before the pandemic struck.
It was an NHS already in crisis, with waiting lists at an all-time high and record waits for cancer treatment, according to the BMA leader.
Dr Nagpaul will tell delegates: ‘We will not accept a return the old pre-pandemic NHS, which was so patently under-staffed and under-resourced, where nine in 10 doctors are afraid of medical errors daily. We will not accept an NHS running at unsafe bed occupancy and without spare capacity.
‘We will not accept an NHS unprepared for a pandemic, without vital PPE to protect the health and lives of health and care workers.
‘We will not accept an NHS in crisis every summer, let alone every winter. We will not accept a nation bereft of public health staff, facilities and testing capacity, with ministers then paying billions to private companies who were unable to deliver.’
Highlighting that the UK has ‘endured the horror’ of more than 130,000 people dying from Covid since the pandemic began – far higher than many similar nations – Dr Nagpaul will also reiterate the BMA’s calls for an immediate public inquiry of the Government’s pandemic handling.
The ARM, which this year is an in-person event after last year’s virtual replacement, takes place in London during today and tomorrow.
Issues on the agenda include:
- A vote of ‘no confidence’ in NHS Digital’s ability to keep data extracted under the delayed General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) system ‘safe’ and a proposal to demand the system is made opt-in rather than opt-out;
- A motion calling on the BMA to reject proposals to establish a medical apprenticeship scheme ‘outright’ and lobby instead for ‘increased accessibility for financial support’ for students;
- A call for a wide-ranging public inquiry into the pandemic to start ‘without delay’, including a consideration of whether ministers should be taken to court for their failings;
- Mandatory Covid vaccination for all doctors who are not medically contraindicated;
- NHS England’s ‘negative briefings’ suggesting GP practices were ‘shut’ during the pandemic; and
- a debate on moving to a ‘neutral’ stance on physician-assisted dying.
Dr Nagpaul’s comments come as a Pulse survey last week revealed that around 80% of GPs say that a return to pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments is not necessary.
Pulse’s survey of 1,000 GPs also found that half say that a return to the number of face-to-face appointments would not be possible, because patients are now expecting to have quicker access through remote consultations and fears around their health.
The survey also revealed that nearly three quarters of GPs are experiencing increased levels of patient abuse compared with before the pandemic.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We have backed the health service at every turn, with an extra £29bn to support health and care services on top of our historic settlement for the NHS in 2018. This will see the NHS budget rise by £33.9bn by 2023/24.
‘At the same time, we are backing the NHS with a further £36bn for health and social care and a ring-fenced £8bn to tackle backlogs and help the NHS deliver an extra nine million checks, scans and operations for patients across the country.’