UK doctors told to ‘postpone’ standard care to administer COVID vaccines

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UK doctors told to ‘postpone’ standard care to administer COVID vaccines

Doctors in the U.K. have been told to abandon standard procedures in order to prioritize administering the new COVID-19 vaccinations, promoting concerns about huge rises in undiagnosed health issues.

General Practitioners (GP), have been told to “stand down” their routine appointments, and “postpone other activities” in order to make rolling out the COVID vaccines the “top priority.”

As England enters its third national lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has linked the roll-out of the vaccines to the easing of restrictions, saying “If the rollout of the vaccine program continues to be successful, if deaths start to fall as the vaccine takes effect, and critically, if everyone plays that part by following the rules, then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and starting cautiously to move regions down the tiers.”

He has identified four top “priority groups” who should receive the vaccine first, and in order to do so, 13,900,000 vaccines need to be administered by the middle of February.

In light of this goal, GP’s have been told to “stand down non-essential work,” although it is unclear what is considered non-essential. Clinics in London were told that for a two week period, ending on January 15, they should “focus on urgent care including care home support, serious acute illness and deterioration in long-term conditions.”

However, the orders have caused great concern about the effect on non-COVID related illnesses.

During the first national lockdown, the government asked the public to “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.” In fact, so persuasive was the propaganda that already in April, the NHS had to urge people to have health issues attended to as Accident & Emergency admissions nearly halved, and 40% of people polled were “too concerned about being a burden on the NHS to seek help from their GP.”

As a result, in the so called “first wave” of COVID infections in the UK in the spring, over 27 million GP appointments were “lost.” Surveys found that when people did try to arrange appointments, over half of patients found it more difficult to obtain an appointment, either in person or on the phone. NHS figures showed that in July 2020 there was an 85% drop in GP appointments compared to July 2019. 

Research by the Health Foundation also suggested that over 700,000 patients could miss out on face-to-face appointments due to COVID measures. 

Cancer treatment has also plummeted, as only “319 patients had surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or another procedure in July, compared to 1,890 in July last year.” U.K. medical journal, The Lancet, estimated that due to COVID restrictions on health care accessibility, there could be “3291–3621 additional deaths” within 5 years from breast, oesophageal, colorectal and lung cancer. “Substantial increases in the number of avoidable cancer deaths in England are to be expected as a result of diagnostic delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK,” the journal warned.

The delay in standard health care procedures is also impacting children, as research conducted by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found that “one in three” paediatricians performing “emergency admissions” found children had presented themselves late for “diagnosis or treatment.” In fact, more children have died as a result of not receiving timely treatment due to COVID, than have died of the virus itself. 

 

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