DOCTORS across the region have low confidence in tackling the NHS backlog caused by the pandemic.
A survey carried out by trade union the British Medical Association (BMA) found 46 per cent of doctors believe the demand for non-Covid-19 care is back to, or now exceeds, pre-Coronavirus levels. Some 17 per cent say that demand now exceeds levels experienced before the pandemic.
Some 48 per cent are not confident about their department or practice’s ability to manage patient demand, and nearly 60 per cent do not believe they could manage demand if there was a second peak of the virus.
The survey results come after NHS figures showed record waits across the country, including the wait between being referred by a GP to first treatment, and the number of people waiting longer than a year for treatment rising to the highest in over a decade.
In the UK patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks from referral by a GP to treatment, and the national target is to have 92 per cent treated within this timeframe.
But statistics this week showed that nationally, only 52 per cent were.
BMA council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “These survey findings underline the sheer scale of the challenge for the NHS in the coming months, and the anxiety and concern felt by already exhausted frontline doctors as they look ahead to what will likely be one of the most challenging times of their careers.
“Although staff are being told the NHS will begin to return to ‘business as usual’ they have little confidence that it will be able to cope with the backlog of millions of patients left untreated during the first spike of the pandemic. Doctors are worried for their patients and the risk of their condition deteriorating as a result of further delays, given that more than 50,000 patients are already waiting longer than 12 months for treatment.
“At the same time, doctors are really fearful of how the NHS will cope if a second wave of Covid-19 hits, which could be devastating for the health service if it arrives in winter and amid a potential flu outbreak.
“We must do all we can to avoid another peak now, focusing on prevention, and maintaining clear, consistent public health measures and messaging.
“This pandemic has brought sharply into focus how underfunded and understaffed the health service has been in recent years. Now is the time to address this and properly fund the NHS, increase staffing numbers and give it the resources and capacity required to meet the needs of patients not just in the wake of a health emergency but in the long-term.”