The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) is calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stand up for the health service that saved him.

Today RCS publishes its second ‘COVID survey of surgeons’, which shows the government’s 4th test for lifting lockdown isn’t yet being met, because surgeons aren’t yet getting the PPE or tests that they require.

The survey of 1,263 surgeons and surgical trainees finds PPE shortages persist for roughly a third of surgeons a third do not believe there is an adequate supply of PPE in their workplace, and the same amount say  there had been shortages of full, long-sleeved, fluid repellent surgical gowns, or fluid repellent coveralls, over the last two weeks.

On staff-testing, Tuesday’s announcement that tests will be extended to asymptomatic staff is welcome.  The RCS survey reports that 82.4% of surgeons and surgical trainees saying tests were being reserved for staff with symptoms – just 7.5% said there was testing for asymptomatic staff in their workplace.

President-elect of the RCS, Professor Neil Mortensen said:

“Just because the NHS has not been overwhelmed so far, it does not mean the government can use the health service as its economic punch-bag.  It has been a close run thing, and to use Boris Johnson’s own words, ‘we have begun to wrestle it to the floor’, but the virus is certainly not yet defeated. Softening the fifth test to allow relaxation provided the NHS is not ‘overwhelmed’, is based on a flawed premise.

“The NHS has done a tremendous job of redirecting staff and resources to manage the first wave of coronavirus, but this involved postponing thousands of much-needed operations. Having seen off the immediate threat, we must now get back to helping all those patients waiting for essential operations like heart and brain surgery. The NHS cannot continue to be just a COVID-service, it’s so much more than that.

“Our survey shows the government’s fourth test for lifting lockdown has not yet been met.  Surgeons still lack PPE, and we need to be sure that the welcome recent announcements to extend testing mean all hospital workers can get tested quickly, whether or not they are symptomatic.  Having so recently experienced first-hand the support of the NHS, I hope the Prime Minister will not listen to those urging relaxation of the government’s position, on the flawed premise that the NHS ‘can cope’.”



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