In a speech on Monday, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA’s chair of council, will warn that the country and NHS staff have never faced such a crisis before and urge ministers to take action to ensure the health service is better prepared to respond to pandemics in the future.
“We will not accept a return to the old pre-pandemic NHS, which was so patently understaffed and under-resourced, where nine in 10 doctors are afraid of medical errors daily,” he is expected to say. “We will not accept an NHS running at unsafe bed occupancy and without spare capacity.”
Before the pandemic, NHS bed occupancy was regularly above the 85% considered a reasonable safe threshold.
Critical Beds per 100,000 people:
United Kingdom … 7.3 critical care beds
Germany ………. 34 critical care beds
Further planning failures left the NHS with inadequate stockpiles of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff, leading to last-minute orders of masks, visors and gowns that in some cases turned out to be unsafe or unusable.
Despite warnings from senior doctors at the time:
Boris Johnson’s decision to lift coronavirus restrictions this summer contributed to almost 40,000 being admitted to hospital and more than 4,000 deaths since so-called “freedom day” on 19 July, the BMA said.
“We will not accept an NHS in crisis every summer, let alone every winter,” Nagpaul will add. “We will not accept a nation bereft of public health staff, facilities and testing capacity, with ministers then paying billions to private companies who were unable to deliver.”
Years of underfunding, inadequate facilities and nearly 90,000 staff vacancies meant the NHS was in crisis before coronavirus emerged, leaving it ill-prepared for the demands of the pandemic, Nagpaul is to argue at the BMA’s annual representative meeting.
More than 4 million people were on the NHS waiting list in England in March 2020, the month the country went into its first Covid lockdown. That number has since risen to 5.61 million. The Nuffield Trust has said waiting lists could top 15 million people in four years without a significant increase in NHS trust capacity.