As the professional membership organisation for nearly 10,000 anaesthetists in the UK, Republic of Ireland and internationally, the Association of Anaesthetists promotes patient care and safety, and advances anaesthesia through education, publications, research and international work. Our members have been actively involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impact on BAME communities
The NHS has a high proportion of BAME staff. There is a clear increased risk to the BAME community, but research is needed to establish why that is. Once quantified, this factor will need to be built into a risk assessment tool.
The strategy for testing was unclear, the capacity of testing ramped up too slowly, and the lack of staff testing has lead, we believe, to the virus spreading in the hospitals setting between staff, visitors and patients.
Modelling and the use of statistics
There was on over reliance on one group’s modelling and no risk modification was considered in relation to the impact of the increased number of non-COVID avoidable deaths.
Government communications and public health messaging
Too many disjointed work streams and messages from numerous national bodies that, at times, appeared to contradict each other. A lack of consistency across the devolved nations lead to confusion. There should be one clear message from one source.
The UK’s prior preparedness for a pandemic
Despite many warnings and previous identification of shortages, the UK was poorly prepared. Lack of critical care beds, equipment and staff shortages were known but not addressed. There were examples of staff and patients being put at risk through shortages of equipment.
The development of treatments and vaccines
The rapid evolution of research around COVID was impressive and answered key research questions quickly and clearly. There is a fear that non-COVID research will be set back many years because of the sharp focus on one disease.
There will be long-term consequences on staff health from the prolonged burden and intensity of work they are being asked to undertake. There is a perception that a ‘return to normal’ service should be focusing on the urgent surgery and other interventions rather than all elective work.