Fuel crisis threatens to undermine NHS services, doctors warn

The UK fuel crisis is threatening to undermine NHS services, with some staff unable to travel and most doctors now fearing their work will be affected, polling by the BMA shows.

Fuel crisis threat to NHS services (Image Source/Getty Images)

Doctors responding to the BMA poll reported staff arriving late for work and in some cases unable to attend because of delays or a lack of access to fuel.

Almost seven in 10 of the 2,084 doctors who responded to a poll by the BMA said they fear the fuel crisis will have an impact on their work. Staff absences were a concern for 40% of respondents overall - and in London and south east England half of doctors expected staff absences next week because of problems with fuel.

BMA leaders are repeating calls for health and social care staff to have priority access to fuel to limit the impact on NHS services.

Fuel crisis

The association has been warning since late last month that priority access to fuel for key workers was crucial to ensure NHS services could continue - and has criticised the government for a failure to act.

BMA deputy chair Dr David Wrigley said: 'We asked the government last week to prioritise access to fuel for emergency and essential workers and as yet there has been no affirmative action, leading to doctors telling us that their services will be disrupted as a result.

'Our survey has shown that nearly 70% of doctors in England said they feared negative impacts at their place of work such as staff being late or not able to attend work at all as a result of problems with filling up their cars. This gives a very real possibility that some patients will miss out on their appointments.

'We ask that immediate consideration is given to essential and emergency workers in this ongoing situation and that urgent guidance is issued to allow easier access to fuel.'

NHS workforce

Half of doctors who took part in the survey said they had experienced significant problems refuelling vehicles - and 57% felt the problems were likely to continue for some time.

Significant regional differences in the impact of the fuel crisis were evident from the polling, with nearly three quarters of doctors in London and south east England expecting major problems refuelling their car in the coming weeks, compared with just 26% in north east England and Yorkshire.

Doctors in London were also twice as likely to predict staff absences next week as their counterparts in north east England and Yorkshire - with 50% of doctors in London expecting absences compared with 24% in north east England and Yorkshire.

In London, 65% of doctors felt staff may arrive late due to bus delays because of queuing traffic around petrol stations - again higher than other parts of the country.

Rural GP surgeries

BMA South East regional council chair Dr Christine Clayton said: 'The problems with fuel are having an enormous impact, particularly because in some of the more rural surgeries where I work in Surrey, using a bus service is impossible because there isn’t one. I have no other option but to drive so unless we can access fuel, we cannot see our patients.

'As I drive around the county, I’ve seen huge queues at all the petrol stations, with several noticeably devoid of both petrol and diesel. We must have priority access to fuel and fast.'

A government spokesperson said last month: 'We recognise the challenges facing industry and have already taken action to increase the supply of HGV drivers - including streamlining the process for new drivers and increasing the number of driving tests - and by temporarily relaxing competition law to prioritise fuel deliveries to areas most in need. We are continuing to monitor the impact of these challenges on all parts of society.'

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