Vaccinate health care workers now to protect patients and NHS, demands BMA

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The British Medical Association is calling for health care workers to be vaccinated “immediately” in order to protect patients and the NHS while raising alarm about the impact the pandemic is having on doctors well being.

Helena McKeown, chair of the representative body of the BMA told Times Radio today: “We must protect the current workforce with vaccinations – immediately – so that we can look after patients.”

The physical and mental strain on health care staff working through the pandemic is becoming an increasing concern, and McKeown said: “We already have evidence that people’s mental well being is at an all time low.

“We have two-thirds of doctors stressed and anxious and I’m particularly worried about burn-out and post traumatic stress from this because that will impact the care we can give, and the catch up we are able to give all the other conditions in the next several years.

“We can’t just create doctors and nurses and so it’s absolutely desperate that we protect the current workforce with vaccinations immediately.”

McKeown said that meant every health care worker: “So that we can look after the other patients and vaccinate the other patients.”

‘Get rid of bureaucracy to get doctors back’

As well as urgently prioritising the vaccination of health care workers, McKeown also called for action to make it easier for newly-retired doctors to return to the health service and help administer vaccinations.

“We need to get rid of a load of bureaucracy,” said McKeown, the representative chair of the trade union and professional body for doctors and medical students in the UK. “They are being asked to do things that are completely unnecessary in order to safely vaccinate people.”

The BMA chair said they have retired doctors who have wanted to return since July but they are still not back in the workforce in January.

McKeown’s comments follows the BMA’s criticism of the vaccination programme for healthcare staff which has been left at a local level the results of which have been “ad hoc and chaotic”, according to the BMA.

Vaccinating frontline staff will help “protect an already depleted workforce” and “help prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed.”

‘Hospitals are becoming like warzones’, says BMA council chair

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul commented on the huge increase in the number of patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospitals in England – up more than 50% since Christmas Day, and said: “Hospitals are becoming like warzones, and healthcare workers are the exhausted foot soldiers on the frontline.”

The BMA said in a statement posted to Twitter today: “Currently 46,000 NHS staff off sick due to Covid-19 = huge impact on the ability to provide acre. Only way to address this is to ensure all HCW [health care workers] are immediately prioritised for the vaccine; we want the most vulnerable to have it in the next two weeks and the rest by the end of January.”

New figures published today show that more than 30,000 hospital beds in England are occupied by Covid-19 patients – the highest figure since the onset of the pandemic. Data published today by NHS England shows 30,758 patients being treated in English hospitals, up from 29,462 on the previous day. On September 2 the number was 451.

The number of deaths in the last 24 hours reported today is 563 taking the total to 81,431 – on January 3 the toll passed 75,000.

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