Hospital Dr News

Half of doctors concerned for their health, royal college warns

Almost half (48%) of doctors working during the COVID-19 pandemic report feeling concerned or very concerned for their health.

That’s the key finding of an RCP survey of over 1,500 doctors working in the UK.

Among BAME members, this figure rose to 76%. The majority of respondents (61%) were also concerned for the health of those they live with

The widespread concern among clinicians reflects the reported lack of access to personal protective equipment (PPE), testing for COVID-19, and the fact that so many staff are having to take time off due to having suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

A third of doctors have been absent from work during the pandemic, mostly due to having suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Of the 1,582 members of the RCP who responded to the survey, 37% had to take time off, and of those, 20% said they’d had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and 39% had a suspected case of COVID-19.

Across the UK, London was hardest hit, with 42% reporting they had to take time off work during the pandemic.

Over the past six weeks, however, access to testing for COVID-19 has improved slowly but there are still problems for key workers and their families getting tests.

Five per cent report being unable to access testing for themselves, 17.5% can’t access testing for members of their household who have symptoms, and 4% are still unable to access testing for their patients.

Those able to access testing are often made to wait days for the results. Some 17% report getting their test result within 24 hours, but 38% have had to wait up to two days, 20% 2-3 days, and 14% 4 days or more.

Issues with access to PPE continue with 16.5% of respondents saying they’ve found themselves in a situation over the last two weeks in which they have been unable to access the PPE recommended by Public Health England.

Despite clear instructions that ‘fit testing’ for PPE should be happening, 33% report not having had or being able to get fit testing – barely up from 31% three weeks ago.

Similarly, 37% of respondents still report not feeling confident fit checking their own PPE.

NHS employers have been asked to conduct risk assessments for each of their staff regarding their personal risk of contracting COVID-19, but despite these instructions most employees haven’t been assessed. Only 18% report having had a formal risk assessment.

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “It is no wonder that clinicians are worried for themselves and their families, when the very things that would keep them safe – PPE and testing – are still hard to access for so many of them.

“We need to get those who have symptoms back to work as soon as possible so they need to be tested in good time – waiting 3-4 days for test results at a time like this is simply unacceptable.

“Given that so many staff have had to take time off work during the pandemic, we welcome plans to roll out antibody tests to them as soon as possible so that we can understand whether they have or haven’t had the virus.

“Employers must do more to help and reassure staff – giving them the confidence to fit check their own PPE should be the bear minimum.”

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