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Corona pandemic preventing other NHS patients from getting suitable care

Doctors are unable to offer patients the desperate care they need as a result of Covid-19 pandemic, a survey warns.

More than half of doctors told a BMA survey that prioritisation of confirmed and suspected Covid-19 patients was worsening the care available to those without the condition.

Almost a third of the 16,000 doctors who responded said it was having a significantly worse impact.

Further, the biggest concern raised by doctors is the long-term impact on patient clinical demand, with 40% saying this is their greatest worry.

Hospitals have been repurposed into prioritising Covid patients, with a halt put on a range of other services for patients including for those with chronic conditions.

Wards and facilities have been adapted to cope with the demand of patients with the coronavirus infection at the expense of other patients.

Referrals from GPs are not being accepted unless for a serious medical conditions and routine investigations to aid diagnosis are not available in many cases.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak the NHS was already suffering record waits in general practice, A&E, hospital and cancer services. The health needs of patients have not disappeared, but their care has effectively been placed on hold whilst the NHS deals with the pandemic.

The survey also found that a more than a quarter of doctors were experiencing shortages of vital medicines, gases or therapeutics, with almost a third saying that such shortages – or anticipated future shortages – have forced them to offer less effective treatment than they ordinarily would.

Inhalers, antibiotics, HRT medicines, anaesthetic drugs, oxygen and painkillers were amongst those referenced as experiencing supply issues.

The survey – polled on 28/29 April – also shows that there are still problems with PPE, with almost half of doctors having to source their own equipment or rely on donations, the provision of which will need to be significantly expanded if the NHS resumes normal services.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, 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.”

Lesley Bentley, chair of the BMA Patient Liaison Group, added: “Even at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital that patients continue to get the care and treatments they need and feel confident in doing so.”

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