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Doctors worried NHS is unprepared for coronavirus as government unveils action plan

Concerns raised as government reveals key planning document

Coronavirus

A survey has found that over 99% of 1,618 NHS medics were not in agreement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assurances that the health service could cope with a major coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

The survey by The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) comes amid a rise in cases of coronavirus in the UK, with 39 people confirmed to have contracted the infection as of 2 March.

Doctors raised concerns around a lack of intensive care and high-dependancy beds, poor staffing levels, lack of personal protective equipment and inappropriate advice to attend A&E/GP practices being given by NHS 111.

Further concerns cited a lack of laboratory capacity to test for potential cases if a pandemic event were to arise.

“Our local hospital seems to have been constantly on ‘internal incident declared’ (no beds available) for the past six months – how exactly can the NHS cope with the surge in demand coronavirus will bring? I very much worry that there will be nowhere near the ITU beds and staff required,” said one Doctor surveyed by DAUK.

This morning, the government set out the details of its action plan for a potential outbreak of the novel coronavirus – which causes the disease now known as COVID-19.

According to the document, up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of a coronavirus epidemic in the UK, with the government forecasting that a possible outbreak could come in multiple waves.

Proposed measures if an epidemic were to occur include limiting police focus to only the most serious crimes, military support to emergency services, possible school closures, reducing social gatherings and a move toward working from home.

The plans also propose delaying some non-urgent hospital care, as well as calling back recently retired doctors and nurse to work.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The message today is that, right now, we do not need to do many of the heavy things we are talking about in the plan. But we are also setting [them] out as transparently as we possibly can so people know the sort of things we might have to do in future.”

A number of pharma companies are currently undertaking research into possible vaccine candidates, including Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Moderna and Gilead, among others.

However, vaccine development takes time, with clinical trials likely not to start until later this year, with regulatory approval coming much later down the line. Compared to therapeutics – i.e. targeted medicinal treatments – vaccines typically take a longer time to develop and test.

“We think there are good tools and approaches at hand that will find success, but we should not be too overconfident that this can happen quickly,” John Shiver, Sanofi Pasteur’s senior vice president of global vaccine research and development told American news outlet CNBC.

Clinical trials of Gilead’s antiviral medicine remdesivir also have begun in the US and China, after the drug showed promise in initial tests against COVID-19.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

3rd March 2020

From: Healthcare

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