More than a third of doctors in England feel the government’s tiering system will have no impact on efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, a wide-ranging survey has suggested.
The research, from the British Medical Association (BMA), also raises concerns about the confidence of healthcare staff for the autumn/winter period, with more than half saying they are “quite anxious” about it.
Almost two thirds (65%) said staffing shortages are a concern in the months ahead, while 60% said they are concerned about their personal health and wellbeing.
When it comes to dealing with patients 58% said they are concerned about the ability to cope with demand from non-Covid patients, and 44% said they were worried about the ability to cope with demand from patients with Covid symptoms.
Asked to what extent they believed the current rules for tiering in their area will be effective in containing the spread of the virus, more than a third (37%) said they felt they would have no impact or be ineffective, less than half (46%) said they thought they would work to a slight extent and just 5.95% said a significant extent.
More than 6,000 medics were questioned as part of the survey and the findings show the “enormous scale of the challenges” facing the NHS into winter, the BMA chairman said.
Dr Chaand 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.”
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”.
Almost a fifth (19%) of those questioned said in the two weeks leading up to the mid-October survey they had seen a significant increase in the number of Covid cases and it was higher than the same point in the first wave.
Some 11% 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 just over a quarter (27%) 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.”
The BMA said 6,610 doctors in England took part in the survey during the week of October 19.
A majority (70%) said they had not contracted coronavirus.