UK COVID-19 Update: 1 in 5 Doctors 'May Quit NHS', Autumn Jabs for School Children?

Tim Locke

May 04, 2021

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

Thousands Consider Quitting

The BMA's latest pandemic polling suggests 21% of doctors, many of whom feel overworked and exhausted, are considering leaving the NHS, 25% are likely to take a career break, 50% plan to work shorter hours, and 32% are more likely to take early retirement.

Council Chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, commented: "It’s deeply worrying that more and more doctors are considering leaving the NHS because of the pressures of the pandemic – talented, experienced professionals who the NHS needs more than ever to pull this country out of a once-in-a-generation health crisis."

Polling also showed almost 40% aren't given access to somewhere to safely relax with colleagues.

"Far too many doctors and healthcare workers are being denied even a space to unwind in at work, never mind a proper break and time to recuperate,” Dr Nagpaul said.

"This is leading to a detrimental impact on doctors’ health and wellbeing and forcing them to feel as though they have no choice but to abandon a profession they love and worked so hard to achieve.

“For those that stay, working without respite endangers patient care from doctors becoming exhausted and burnt out -  we’ve already seen an increase in staff taking sick leave, further draining the NHS of its precious workforce."

The Department of Health and Social Care said the Government was "committed to supporting the NHS and its staff in the fight against COVID and beyond".

Meanwhile, Savanta ComRes polling of more than 2000 UK adults for health unions suggests 60% think the proposed 1% NHS pay rise in England is too low.

Emergency Departments

Latest Scottish Government data for March show emergency department attendances returning to pre-pandemic levels, with a 30% increase compared to February this year, and a 7% increase compared to March 2020.

Dr John Thomson, vice president, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: "We fear a return of the pre-pandemic crowding that put patient safety at risk.

“The health service is in recovery, elective care waiting lists are growing, attendances at Emergency Departments are increasing, and the already depleted workforce is exhausted.

"As a result, some hospitals are beginning to face pressures with patients delayed for hours. We must rapidly assess and address our resources, capacity, and the way we deliver care."

Ethnicity Risks

Minority Ethnic groups had a higher risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 and of COVID-19-related hospitalisations, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and death compared with White groups in England, according to an observational cohort study published in The Lancet.

"To improve COVID-19 outcomes, we urgently need to tackle the wider disadvantage and structural racism faced by these communities, as well as improving access to care and reducing transmission," said lead author Dr Rohini Mathur, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Autumn Jab for Secondary School Kids?

The Sunday Times reported on NHS planning for Pfizer/BioNTech jabs for secondary school pupils aged 12 and over this autumn. It quotes JCVI member, Professor Adam Finn, University of Bristol: "We need to be in a position to immunise children, particularly teenagers, promptly and efficiently if we need to."

The European Medicines Agency announced it was evaluating the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use in 12-15 year olds.

Meanwhile, the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) schools infection survey data show 0.34% of secondary school pupils, and 0.19% of secondary school staff, tested positive for current COVID-19 infection 15 to 31 March. Fiona Dawe from ONS said: "The data shows that during round four of testing, there was a reduction in current infection rates in schools taking part in the study.  In secondary schools there was a significant reduction in current infection levels in both pupils and staff."

Foreign Travel

The Government is due to publish the traffic light list of overseas destinations later this week ready for the planned resumption of international travel after 17 May.

However, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus said ministers should "discourage all international leisure travel" this year to help protect against virus variants.

Ending Self-isolation

The UK Health Security Agency is starting a trial of daily testing as an alternative to self-isolation for those who’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Up to 40,000 people will be sent a 7 day supply of rapid lateral flow test kits. Those who test negative and don't develop symptoms will be exempt from the legal need to self-isolate that day.

Study lead, Professor Isabel Oliver, said: "We know that isolating when you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is challenging but it remains vitally important to stop the spread of infection. This study will help to determine whether we can deploy daily testing for contacts to potentially reduce the need for self-isolation, while still ensuring that chains of transmission are stopped.

"Contacts of cases are at higher risk of infection so testing them is a very effective way of preventing further spread. This study will play an important part of our evaluation of daily contact testing and how the approach to testing might evolve."

Latest ONS data show 84% of people required to self-isolate said they'd stuck to the rules.

More News

  • Coronavirus infections in India have passed  20 million, the second country to reach that milestone after the US.

  • More than 50 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have now been given in the UK, including 15.5 million second doses.

  • The coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil appears to be much more transmissible than other versions of the virus, and may be able to evade immunity from previous infection, according to a study in Science.

  • The MHRA issued a statement debunking social media reports claiming people should avoid alcohol for up to 2 weeks after COVID-19 vaccination.

  • Care home residents in England can now go out for walks or to meet family members outside without having to self-isolate on their return.

  • Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Surrey found that well-fitting, three-layered cloth masks can be as effective at reducing the transmission of COVID-19 as surgical masks, Univadis from Medscape reported.

  • University of Bristol researchers' systematic review published in PLoS One found a lack of evidence regarding the effectiveness of portable air filters in preventing indoor transmission of respiratory infections, including COVID-19.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.


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