NHS care for patients without Covid-19 infection has “significantly worsened”, doctors warn today.
The British Medical Association said there was a long-term threat of increased clinical demands on the NHS. A BMA survey of more than 16,000 doctors found that almost a third said that prioritisation of the virus was “significantly” worsening care of other patients. It came as the government and local managers consider how they can resume “normal care” with some trusts designating specific hospitals as Covid-19 centres.
Some 25% of doctors said they had been redeployed from their normal roles during the pandemic. Some 31% said they had faced shortages, hampering their ability to provide normal care to patients. The survey also found that 65% of respondents still do not feel fully protected against the virus while nearly half have relied on donated or self-purchased protective items.
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “While all parts of the NHS have rallied around in a bid to meet the immediate rocketing demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, these findings bear out the fears held by many doctors that parts of the health service – and most importantly the needs of patients more widely with non-Covid illness – are being neglected.
“This means many ill patients are not getting the care they so desperately need now – and crucially, risking their conditions getting worse and with some maybe even dying as a result. Once this current situation eases, it is highly likely that there will be a sudden spike in demand, from patients with far more acute illnesses, caused by a delay in timely treatment. It is vital that the NHS plans for this now.”
He added: “The survey shows that overall, there has been an improvement in the provision of PPE, but if almost half of all doctors report that they had to resort to purchasing PPE themselves or rely on donations, then there is still a lot for the Government to do to protect its frontline. Doctors are still reporting shortages in gowns, with one in three not having enough gowns in settings where they are most at risk with the most poorly of Covid patients.”
NHS permanent staff are getting much more access to testing than locum staff or care workers, a nursing union reported today. Some 22,000 health and care workers took part in the Royal College of Nursing survey over the weekend found that 76% had not been offered a test. This rose to 79% among those not directly employed by the NHS. 44% said they did not know how to access testing.
NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said: “The 100,000 target has galvanised the system – it is a major achievement. But let’s be clear, access to testing continues to be the challenge in some areas, particularly for staff working in out-of-hospital settings, such as in primary and social care. We need to make sure the tests are in the right settings at the right time.
“Health leaders report improvements but they need to see the focus shift more to home testing for their staff. And all this must be achieved alongside a new programme of targeted testing in the community, as part of test, track and trace. This needs to be done with local public health directors supported by a new army of local contact tracers, as well as using technology.”