A “Do Not Enter sign” and National Health Service (NHS) information about the coronavirus is displayed at the entrance to a doctor’s surgery in North London. (Photo: Reuters/John Sibley)
Eastern Eye Staff
INDIAN doctors in the UK on Thursday (19) called for urgent measures to address the mounting coronavirus pressure on the NHS, including cancellation of all non-urgent surgeries.
The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) wrote to England’s Chief Medical Officer Prof. Chris Whitty, saying Indian doctors stood “shoulder to shoulder” alongside other frontline healthcare workers but required adequate support.
“BAPIO has received concerns from frontline staff about elective work still being performed in some hospitals,” said letter signed by the association’s president, Ramesh Mehta, and secretary Parag Singhal.
“BAPIO is of the view that any non-urgent elective work should be cancelled at this time.”
They also insisted that “protective gear to be made available to all frontline staff”, noting the government’s efforts on shortage of safety gear such as face masks and aprons.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament on Wednesday that the government would ensure “stockpiles” of personal protective equipment.
“There is a massive effort going on, comparable to the effort to build enough ventilators, to ensure that we have adequate supplies of PPE not just now, but throughout the outbreak,” he said.
The BAPIO, which represents nearly 60,000 Indian doctors working within the NHS, also reiterated its earlier request for all frontline medical staff to be tested on a priority basis.
“BAPIO believes that the symptomatic frontline workers and their family members should be tested. This would help in identifying negative cases thus enabling the frontline staff to return to their duties and support their colleagues,” the letter said.
The association also offered the CMO the support of a BAPIO-supported independent think tank, Our NHS Our Concern.
The letter came as general practitioner Saumya Jha, who was self-isolating after developing symptoms of COVID-19, made an online appeal for such GPs to be able to work remotely.
Jha said she felt “fit enough” to talk to patients over the phone and triage from home, urging the government to consider those options.
The UK government has imposed strict self-isolation measures in place and called on everyone to avoid non-essential social contact and travel as the death toll rose to 108, with 2,626 confirmed cases.
London, seen as the epicentre of the outbreak with over a third of the cases, was heading towards stringent lockdown measures.