Doctors do not want to return to pre-pandemic work patterns

Fewer than half (45%) of doctors say they want their working pattern to return to what it was before the pandemic, according to a survey of over 25,000 UK members of the Royal College of Physicians.

This comes as almost half of doctors (49%) report their jobs being informally altered to cope with the pandemic. Only 10% feel they are prepared for services to return to normal and two out of five members (40%) said they thought it would take over 18 months for the NHS to get back on an ‘even keel’ where services had stabilised to a new normal.

This comes as over a third (39%) of doctors who have taken up phone consultations with patients throughout the pandemic, report it having a negative impact on the care they’re able to provide and almost two thirds of doctors (77%) report feeling more concerned for their other patients than for those with COVID-19.

Issues with access to PPE and testing have improved but 11% of doctors still report being unable to access the PPE they need according to PHE guidance and almost a third report not having been 'fit tested' (31%) or feeling confident fit checking their own PPE (33%). 

Despite persistent government advice that all healthcare workers be risk assessed for COVID-19, only 24% have had a formal risk assessment. Only 26% have been able to access antibody testing, and of those, 30% report the results as positive.  Last week the RCP called for all those at highest risk to have an initial risk assessment within a fortnight.

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians said: “I am spectacularly proud of the ways in which doctors have so quickly adapted their working lives to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is illuminating to see, however, that so many of them do not want to return to how they were working before.

“We need to listen to doctors’ concerns and continue to adapt the way we are working, not only secure and retain our NHS workforce, but also to prepare for the possibility of a second peak of the virus later this year.”