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Shortfall of 50,000 doctors may overwhelm NHS in winter, BMA warns

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The NHS may be unable to cope this winter because of a “frightening” shortfall of more than 50,000 doctors, the head of the British Medical Association has warned.

The number of medics in England has fallen further behind comparable European countries over the summer, ahead of what is predicted to be one of the worst winters in the 73-year history of the health service, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said.

“Winter is an incredibly difficult time for the health service,” he said. “With flu season on the horizon and even fewer staff this time round, it’s a total unknown as to how well our services will cope – if they even cope at all.”

With more GPs and hospital doctors quitting over the summer, the shortage has risen to 50,191, according to the BMA. This reflects a loss of 919 doctors in primary care and 110 in secondary care over the last two months.

Yet more doctors are actively considering quitting in the coming months due to burnout and excessive workloads. “Alarm bells” should be ringing, Dr Nagpaul said.

The workforce crisis means staff are working longer hours to keep up with patient demand. Some feel they have no choice but to hand in their notice to get the respite they need. This piles pressure on those that remain, Dr Nagpaul said.

Last week, Prof Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told the Guardian that GPs in England are “finding it increasingly hard to guarantee safe care” for millions of patients, because the shortage of medics means they are unable to cope with soaring demand."

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Source: The Guardian, 13 September 2021

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