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'I'll have to sleep at work to keep surgery open': GP reveals impact of fuel panic to LBC

28 September 2021, 11:18 | Updated: 28 September 2021, 23:54

By Fiona Jones

A doctor has told LBC that he faces spending the night sleeping at the GP surgery just to keep it running, as the fuel crisis besieging the UK entered a fifth day.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today urged calm saying there were "tentative signs" that the situation is easing. But queues are nonetheless likely to remain for the next few days. which the public would see reflected in the shortening of queues in the coming days.

Pumps have been running dry and long queues and violent clashes have continued outside petrol stations. LBC has seen footage of a man brandishing what appeared to be a knife at a petrol station and there were further violent scenes at forecourts in England. 

The surge in demand was sparked after BP warned the Government on Friday it would not be able to fulfil all deliveries due to a shortage of HGV drivers.

The army has been put on standby in response, with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace signing off a request for up to 300 troops to be deployed if required.

Sources said 150 drivers and 150 drivers' mates could be made available under Operation Escalin. Government sources confirmed the military assistance to the civil authorities (Maca) request had been approved.

Richard, a doctor who lives in Brighton and works in Tonbridge, Kent, told Tom Swarbrick there seems no sign of fuel panic letting up.

He said he could only salvage enough fuel for one more of the 116 mile roundtrips between home and work, and was considering putting a sleeping bag in his surgery to guarantee he can be present for his patients.

Read more: Army on standby as fuel crisis enters day five and calls grow for 999 heroes to jump queue

Richard told Tom he is "almost living day to day" during the supply difficulties and called LBC while taking a break from driving around Gatwick trying to find fuel.

His surgery's situation is critical; Richard said that two colleagues were unable to get to work today and three colleagues have pre-emptively informed him they won't be in tomorrow as finding fuel for the commute is impossible.

Read more: ‘Knife’ pulled and brawls break out at pumps as fuel madness shows no sign of letting up

It is not just doctors being unable to commute that is affecting healthcare, critical diagnoses may be missed during the fuel panic.

The doctor explained: "We've got no blood couriers coming to take samples to the laboratory, we've been told to take our own samples down to the hospital or just leave them and wait for the situation to improve.

"On top of that we've got rationing on blood tests because there's not enough tubes and bottles coming in."

Read more: Fuel crisis: Panic buying leaves up to 90% of petrol pumps dry in major British cities

Richard said that he has "lost all faith in what the Government says", and posited that people "losing trust" in Boris Johnson largely attributed to the panic-buying.

He added, "If we felt things were being done or if there was an official announcement by the Prime Minister...but there's nothing, there's just a complete absence of useful information.

"When things start to fall down in terms of schools, healthcare, police, then people start to take note."

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth spoke to Shelagh Fogarty with a similar sentiment, taking a swipe at Sajid Javid on LBC and instructing him to "hammer out a plan" to ensure medical workers can access fuel.

Read more: 'You couldn't pay me enough': Lorry driver explains why no one wants to drive trucks in UK

150 troops are understood to be on standby to help deliver fuel as demand continues to surge as people keep panic buying.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there are "tentative signs" that pressure on filling stations is beginning to ease. 

Mr Shapps said there was more petrol in the filling stations, although he acknowledged it would not have an immediate impact on the queues for fuel. 

"There are now the first very tentative signs of stabilisation in forecourt storage which won't be reflected in the queues as yet," he said. 

"But it is the first time that we have seen more petrol actually in the petrol stations.

"As the industry said yesterday, the sooner we can all return to our normal buying habits, the sooner the situation will return to normal".

Long queues were again reported outside stations which were open, after the Government announced it was putting the Army on standby in an effort to ensure supplies were maintained.

But oil companies have said they expect the pressure on forecourts to ease in the coming days, with many cars carrying more fuel than usual.

However the chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), Brian Madderson, said that there was little sign of that happening - with social media driving the dash to the pumps.

"As soon as the tanker arrives at a filling station people on social media are advising that a tanker has arrived and it is like bees to a honeypot."Everyone flocks there and within a few hours it is out again.

"Ministers announced late on Monday that soldiers were being put on standby to deliver fuel, amid concerns that a shortage of tanker drivers was threatening the ability of the oil companies to maintain supplies.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson originally drew back from activating Operation Escalin - first drawn up to deal with the aftermath of Brexit - for troops to fill in and drive tankers.

The Government had been hoping that the queues would ease as people returned to more normal buying patterns.

However Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who issued the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities request, said putting troops on readiness to assist was a "sensible, precautionary step".

"If required, the deployment of military personnel will provide the supply chain with additional capacity as a temporary measure to help ease pressures caused by spikes in localised demand for fuel," he said.

It was reported that initially 75 drivers would be given additional training to enable them to drive tankers, with a further 75 available if required.Ministers have repeatedly urged the public not to panic buy, insisting the country has "ample" supplies of fuel.

However the calls appeared to fall on deaf ears, with the PRA reporting that many motorists, when they were able to find a filling station that was open, were taking on far more fuel than usual.

Meanwhile the Government continued to face calls to give priority access to fuel supplies to healthcare staff and other essential workers.Dr David Wrigley, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, warned essential services could be hit if staff were unable to get to work because they could not fill up.

The NASUWT teaching union said priority access should also be given to teachers if children were not to face further disruption to their education.

General secretary Patrick Roach said: "For many teachers, the use of public transport is simply not an option, with many schools in areas that are not easily accessible other than by using private vehicles.

"Without such intervention, many teachers will struggle to get to their places of work on time, adding to the daily uncertainty and disruption faced by children and young people."

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