South West doctors speak of fears over ‘second wave’

Doctors in the South West have warned against complacency as lockdown is eased, expressing fears about a second peak of the coronavirus.

Martin Freeman www.devonlive.com 

Dr Lucy-Jane Davis, British Medical Association South West chair, says that the infection rate remains “worryingly high”.

“The risk surrounding this highly infectious illness remains significant and if there is further spread thousands more families could lose loved ones before their time,” she says in an open letter (see page 20).

“In a recent BMA survey, doctors in the South West revealed fears around a second peak of Covid-19 that has the potential to overwhelm the health service.

“Forty-seven percent of doctors in the region expressed that they were not confident in their ability to manage a second influx of Covid-19 cases.

“We understand that the lockdown in itself has had an impact on people’s health and wellbeing, but it remains vital that easing it must be done gradually and sensibly. The Government must take every measure possible to support the public and employers in stopping the spread of the virus, whether that’s in outdoor places, reuniting with friends and loved ones, or returning to work.

“To prevent a second peak and avoid more loss of life in the South West, the BMA is calling on the Government to establish a wide-scale, accurate and systematic approach to test and trace and support the public in adhering to social distancing and infection control measures as restrictions are relaxed,” said Dr Davis.

“Frontline staff have worked tirelessly during this pandemic to care for patients and save as many people as possible, often putting this before their own safety, wellbeing and health.

“To risk a second pandemic as a result of complacency could serve to undermine the incredible efforts they have already gone to throughout this pandemic.”

Dr Davis’ letter comes after a new BMA surveyed showed that 53% of doctors in the South West fear the backlog of non-covid patients is becoming uncontrollable.

The survey also found that over 63% of doctors in the region say demand has increased significantly in the past week, with 16% saying it had already exceeded pre-March levels.

Twenty-one percent of doctors in the region said there had been no engagement with them over how to manage the increase in demand in their place of work or local area.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chairman, said: “Doctors are rightly worried.

“The care they are able to offer non-covid patients has worsened because of prioritising those with the virus, and they have little confidence that they can manage the surge in demand to come.”

At the height of the pandemic non-emergency surgery was halted. Public Health England has said that cancer referrals from GPs have fallen by as much as 80%.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of NHS staff, hospitals were not overwhelmed during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak and our intensive care capacity met the needs of patients.

“We continue to work closely with the NHS and partners and guidance has already been issued to the NHS on the process of starting to restore urgent non-covid services in a safe way.

“We are committed to ensuring the NHS has the funding and support it needs to respond to the crisis.”

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