RCSEd Policy and Public Affairs team Share Actions of Recent Survey Results

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21 May 2020

We are writing as the Policy and Public Affairs team for the College to update you on what work we have been doing in the last six weeks with regards to representing you at the policy level.

Many of you completed our survey done in partnership with the Doctor’s Association UK on Coronavirus testing for doctors on the frontlines. The results were damning, and the report was widely circulated at Westminster. Every member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health and Social Care received a copy and it was acknowledged by the Select Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP. It was also circulated to every member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Health, to the Leader of the Opposition’s team, Shadow health teams of Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems and the data from Scotland was submitted to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport in the Scottish Government, Jeanne Freeman MSP as well as her Shadow Monica Lennon MSP.

There were several outputs from that. Firstly, we were one of seven medical Royal Colleges asked to participate in a private zoom discussion to brief Sir Keir Starmer and the Shadow Health team, chaired by the Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth MP. Professor Mike Griffin spoke of that survey and its consequences in particular for elective surgery. We have also conducted further briefings on its contents with Dr Philippa Whitford MP, the SNP’s Westminster Health Spokesperson and with Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Health.

Following that discussion with Lord Hunt he has submitted a formal Written Question to the government asking them what assessment they made of our survey report and what measures they are taking to increase testing of front-line staff. We have yet to receive an answer, but you can find the full question here.

We have been pleased to see this pressure, together with pressure from other quarters, has begun to bear fruit, with the government conceding that front-line health and care staff will be the first priority for antigen tests. However, it is important that we keep track of what testing is available and as such we are repeating the testing survey. Please do fill that out when you receive it, as it does make a difference.

Lord Hunt has also, at the request of the College, submitted a written question on the topic of the R-number of the infection rate. Specifically, he has asked whether the R-number is calculated for the different settings of the community, hospitals and care homes separately and also by region of the UK, and whether they will make public those individual numbers. You can find that question here, and we will update you once a response is given.

We have also been active on matters not relating to the pandemic, in particular around the upcoming Immigration Bill. As part of this we produced an International Doctor’s Manifesto, making five calls on the government. This was again circulated to interested Parliamentarians. In particular we produced two briefing notes on these points, one on scrapping the Immigration Health Surcharge for NHS workers and one on issues with the current Visa regime for medical practitioners coming to train in the NHS.

Briefings on these two issues were given to the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, to Dr Philippa Whitford MP, to Justin Madders MP the Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care with responsibility for Public Health and Prevention, to Lord Hunt and to Lord Roberts of Llandudno. Sir Keir Starmer’s team have thanked us for that information and as you have probably seen he raised the issue at Prime Minister’s questions and has pledged to introduce an amendment to that effect to the Bill. We have already seen Conservative MPs and the SNP agree with Sir Keir and the College on this issue and we have hopes of a genuinely cross-party effort to get that passed.

If you have any comments on any of the above, would like to get involved in the College’s policy work or you would like to see a copy of the survey report or any of the briefing documents mentioned please do not hesitate to contact either Chris Sanderson on c.sanderson@rcsed.ac.uk or Luke John Davies on l.davies@rcsed.ac.uk.

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