COVID-19: RCoA urges training, preparation and protection for healthcare workers including anaesthetists, to maintain the integrity of the NHS.

Published: 18/03/2020

Professor Ravi Mahajan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists said:

"During these unprecedented times, hospitals and their healthcare staff are working together as best they can on planning for the care and treatment of patients with COVID-19. The Royal College of Anaesthetists represents the single largest specialty group of doctors in UK hospitals. Anaesthetists, alongside intensivists and the wider anaesthesia team, will be in the forefront of caring for patients with COVID-19. Over the next two weeks, there must be adequate time set aside in hospitals for focused preparation and training of anaesthesia teams  in how to manage multiple aspects of the care of patients with COVID-19. This is within the context of the national guidance given by DHSC, NHS England, HEE, and devolved nations’ equivalents. 
 
"Government and individual hospitals must ensure that anaesthesia teams are supported in their work by having adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). The treatment of the anticipated numbers of patients will create an unprecedented demand for such equipment, which is vital to ensure staff are kept safe and that in-hospital transmission to staff and patients is avoided. Both supply and distribution chains must be assured as a matter of urgency.
 
"Guidance from NHS England has stated that there will be postponement of all non-urgent elective operations from 15 April at the latest, for a period of at least three months. It will be important to ensure that provision for other urgent and emergency work such as time critical cancer operations and obstetric anaesthesia is included in planning.  Inevitably, decisions about how to organise services are going to depend largely upon local circumstances. As the situation develops, we will see more doctors working across their traditional medical specialities, stepping in to help out others and their patients. This 'cross-skilling' is something that the College is actively encouraging, working with other medical specialities to provide guidance on. For anaesthetists, it will become even more important to be flexible and be prepared to work across our traditional boundaries.
 
"At this time of increased pressure, the well-being of anaesthesia teams, and therefore their patients, is also of the utmost importance. For this reason, and in order to ensure adequate staffing levels and the integrity of the service, we would urge the introduction of testing for healthcare workers who are unable to work because of confirmed or suspected exposure to COVID-19. Frontline staff must also have 24 hour access to nutritious food and drink, and appropriate rest areas, with suitable facilities for rest provided free of charge for all post-nights staff who feel too tired to drive home."