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MINISTERS can no longer exploit a well of goodwill that has totally run dry to keep the NHS going, the doctors’ union leader warned today.
British Medical Association (BMA) council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul demanded that the government reverse brutal pre-pandemic cuts to public services, in his final speech in the role at the union’s annual representative meeting in Brighton.
A hundred thousand NHS vacancies remain unfilled as the health service continues to battle a waiting list backlog from the coronavirus pandemic, which Dr Nagpaul described as a “crisis of unimaginable proportions.”
He warned that Britain had 50,000 fewer doctors in England than the average among Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development members, which include France and Germany, and said that the government “needs to wake up, open its eyes and realise that we can’t afford to lose a single doctor if patients aren’t to suffer more.
“You cannot run an NHS perpetually by exploiting a well of goodwill which has totally run dry,” he said. “Doctors will and are walking away.”
Referring to a review conducted by the BMA that “unequivocally concludes that the government failed in its duty to protect its workforce,” Dr Nagpaul said: “The lessons from our review demand action today, not in the future, given that a new surge, variant or virus could strike at any moment.”
He also called for government guarantees to reverse the drastic deficit in hospital beds, to have no repeat of shameful squandering of billions on test and trace, and to face the glaring truth of doctor shortages.
Doctors are suffering from utter exhaustion, according to the union, with up to half those surveyed saying their mental health had been affected, 50 per cent more likely to take early retirement and 70 per cent likely to work fewer hours.
BMA findings showed that nine in 10 doctors fear making medical errors daily due to a lack of resources or workforce capacity.
Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr John Puntis said that the government is using Covid-19 as an excuse for the problems in the NHS.
He said: “Exhausted staff are leaving in droves as real pay levels have fallen by around 15 per cent.
“The government must own this problem since it claims credit for stewardship of the NHS during the majority of its 74 years.
“The current severe access problems are its legacy and responsibility.”
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