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Fuel crisis will drive staff absences next week, say London doctors

by Jess Hacker
6 October 2021

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As many as 50% of doctors in London believe that staff absences will occur next week as a result of the ongoing fuel crisis.

Polling among 2,084 doctors, conducted by the BMA (4 October), found that 45% said that some of their team had arrived late due to problems refuelling, while nearly a third (29%) reported absences since the crisis began.

Additionally, nearly 70% of doctors who responded shared concerns that the crisis will have an impact on their work.

Dr David Wrigley, BMA council deputy chair, said that these findings highlight the ‘very real possibility that some patients will miss out on their appointments’.

He added: ‘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.’

This comes after the BMA last week called on the Government to grant priority access to fuel for general practice teams and other healthcare workers.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said at the time that Government plans to alleviate the shortage of HGV drivers will not draw immediate results, and therefore measures should be in place to ensure essential workers ‘can continue their crucial work and guarantee care to patients’.

Dr Wrigley yesterday said ‘there has been no affirmative action’ from the Government on the matter.

Peak in London and south east

The findings also indicate a heightened risk of service disruption in London and the south east.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of doctors in London and 72% of respondents in the south east think they will have ‘major problems refuelling’ their car in the next few weeks, compared to just 26% in the north east and Yorkshire and 32% in  the north west.

Similarly, two-thirds (65%) of London respondents were worried that staff might arrive late due to bus delays because of queuing traffic around petrol stations. This number fell to 28% in the north east and Yorkshire.

Dr Christine Clayton, BMA south east regional council chair, said that the issues with fuel are having an ‘enormous impact’ for practices in Surrey, where she is based, in part because of limited bus services in rural south east towns.

‘I have no other option but to drive so unless we can access fuel, we cannot see our patients,’ she added.

‘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.’

This story first appeared on our sister title, Healthcare Leader.