NHS faces exodus after Covid crisis because staff have seen ‘so much death’, BMA chairman warns

The NHS will face a mass exodus of doctors and nurses after the Covid crisis because health workers were unprepared for "so much death", the chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.

NHS workers have reported high levels of stress and fatigue and as many as two in five have not had a break since the first wave of the pandemic began in March, said Dr Chaand Nagpaul.

A BMA poll of doctors has found that, once the pandemic is over, 51 per cent are more likely to work fewer hours, 26 per cent are more likely to retire early and 22 per cent are more likely to leave the NHS for another career.

The survey suggests the NHS will see a mass exodus after the virus crisis is over, exacerbating existing staffing issues in the health service, and Dr Nagpaul described it as a "serious situation".

"You cannot carry on a health service that has such a workforce shortage and lack of facilities," he said. "That has to be addressed moving forwards."

The BMA chief said health staff were working "flat out" and dealing with the emotional impact of seeing colleagues become ill and helping patients say final goodbyes to loved ones over smartphones or iPads.

Dr Nagpaul told the health and social care committee that even before Covid hit there had been high levels of stress and anxiety, adding: "We [had a] very stressful starting point before the pandemic.

"When we saw Covid start… this was an experience that no doctor or nurse was prepared for – to see so much illness and death."

Separate research by the BMA showed that 40 per cent of doctors have higher stress and burnout levels, 59 per cent say they are severely fatigued and 40 per cent have not been able to take an adequate beak or leave from work since March.

Changes to the ways in which doctors are treating patients during the pandemic mean GPs are having 20 per cent more contacts than previously, with some seeing double the number of patients they saw before.

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