Survey reveals backlog of patient care

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The latest results in a series of surveys of doctors by the BMA, during the pandemic, reveals a workforce exhausted and with little confidence that the NHS is coping with the backlog of cancelled and postponed care.

The latest tracker survey from the BMA of more than 7,000 doctors found that 64 per cent said there had been a significant increase in demand for non-Covid care and a fifth said levels of demand were higher than before the pandemic.

Their optimism at the ability to manage patient demand as the NHS tries to manage the backlog is also very low with just 7% having confidence that their local health economy will be able to manage3. Added to that a quarter of doctors said they’d had no engagement whatsoever from their local health economy about how the increased patient demand will be managed as normal NHS services resumed.4

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And on the question of how they would cope if there was a second spike in Covid -19 infections, 50% of doctors said they were either not very or not at all confident.5 This comes as the survey shows a slight increase in the numbers of doctors experiencing stress and, exhaustion and burnout. With 45% saying they are feeling stressed, this is a slight increase on previous results.6

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Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

"This is the sixth survey of its kind by the BMA during the pandemic, and as a snapshot it’s clear that the NHS is in crisis and doctors are fearful and exhausted. The NHS was an already beleaguered health service with record waits in A&E and hospital waiting lists before this pandemic began. Since then normal services have been put on hold with resources diverted wholesale to the Covid-19 efforts at the expense of large numbers of other patients.

“The Westminster Government has yet to offer any clarity or action plan of how the NHS in England is expected to manage months of cancelled or postponed care; care to be given by already exhausted healthcare staff. We’ve seen the figures showing more than 2 million people waiting for cancer care alone, with overall waiting lists projected to hit 7 million by autumn.

"Meanwhile the reduction in the Covid alert level from 4 to 3 indicates even more the need for honesty about how the surge in non-Covid care is being dealt with. The Government must have meaningful conversations with frontline clinicians about how we can, together, begin to tackle the backlog. This will require transparency around capacity and the workforce crisis, and the need to invest in infrastructure that can meet the healthcare needs of patients.

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“The BMA wants the Westminster Government to publish a credible plan for how the millions of patients awaiting NHS treatment in England in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, are going to get that care. In addition, the Association also wants the Westminster Government to bring together health leaders and staff groups to ensure frontline clinicians are leading discussions on how to prioritise the most urgent cases and how that will be resourced.”