More than a third of doctors think tier system will have no impact

25 October 2020, 13:23

A mural depicting NHS nurse Melanie Senior, based on a photograph by Johannah Churchill.
The BMA survey found 60 percent of doctors are concerned about their own health and wellbeing. Picture: Getty

By Joe Cook

More than a third of doctors in England believe the Government's new tier system will have no impact on containing the spread of coronavirus, a survey of 6,610 doctors has found.

The research, by the British Medical Association (BMA), also raises concerns about the confidence of healthcare staff for the coming winter period, with 60 percent concerned about their own health and wellbeing.

The BMA say the survey’s findings show the “enormous scale of the challenges” facing the NHS, with 65 percent of doctors confirming staffing shortages were a concern in the months ahead.

In a blow to the government’s new three tier system, less than 6 percent of doctors said they thought the rules would work to a significant extent in their area.

More than a third (37 percent) said they felt they would have no impact or be ineffective, while less than half (46 percent) said they thought the restrictions would work to a slight extent.

These figures come after many scientists have expressed doubt over whether the measures will stop the spread of coronavirus in the community.

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When asked about the new restrictions at their announcement on October 12, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Witty said: "I am very confident that the measures that are currently in place, are helping to slow the virus, and these measures will help to slow it further.

"I am not confident, and nor is anybody confident, that the tier three proposals for the highest rates... if we did the absolute base case, and nothing more, would be enough to get on top of it.

Meanwhile, Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London and a member of Sage, said he did not think the restrictions included in Tier 3 would result in the R rate being pushed below one, meaning the virus was likely to still spread at pace.

Speaking to the media earlier in October, after the Prime Minister rejected calls for a circuit break, Hayward said the failure to "take decisive action several weeks ago" meant it was "not really surprising that we're continuing to see large increases in cases".

On Sunday, BMA chairman Dr Chaad Nagpaul said: "Doctors know that this winter is likely be one of the most difficult times of their careers.

"They are extremely worried about the ability for the NHS to cope and their ability to care for the needs of their patients."

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The BMA said it is calling for the Government to be "both honest and realistic with the public about whether the NHS can cope with routine care and Covid care this winter".

Some 11 percent of doctors said while their local health system has plans in place to be able to address the backlog of patients whose care was cancelled, delayed or otherwise disrupted amid the pandemic, they had not yet made any progress, while 27 percent said they had made some.

Only around a third said they have premises that are currently suitable to adequately separate Covid and non-Covid patients - a statistic the BMA said highlights how difficult it will be to meet an expectation of resuming normal NHS services.

Dr Nagpaul said: "Large numbers of doctors across England have little faith that the Government's current 'tiered' based lock-downs will have any significant impact on controlling the virus.

"Instead of a few short weeks of suppression, bringing economic and emotional misery for those in the areas affected, we need a national prevention strategy that has a lasting impact and gets growing infection rates under control across England."