27 March 2020
The last 48 hours have been extremely busy for all College staff – despite the remote remoteness of their work.
I am sure that many of our Members and Fellows are very much in the front line of caring, managing and treating many of the patients suffering from COVID-19. The outpouring of thanks at 8 o’clock last night for all NHS workers from the population of the United Kingdom was heart-warming and heartfelt. I hope all of you drew strength from that support. Nevertheless, we all recognise the risks and the stresses of placing ourselves in this difficult workplace. It is because of this that I must say to you that you must not put yourself, or any of your team, or patients at any unnecessary risk of viral exposure as a result of not having enough personal protection equipment.
I am asking for everyone to absolutely stick to the advice from government and our chief medical officers about social distancing and self-isolation. If at any time any of you feel that you are being placed at risk, then you must bring this to the attention of your consultant or senior manager, clinical director or medical director. New advice about personal protection equipment will be made available by Sunday evening from NHS England and Public Health England. I understand that many of our Members and Fellows feel that inadequate measures have been put into place to provide personal protection equipment. It is so important that we have clear guidance.
At 6 pm tonight, the four Royal Surgical Colleges together with Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland, Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain & Ireland, Association of Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeons order have updated the guidance from the 25th of March to include up-to-date evidence and consultation with Public Health England and Health Protection Scotland. We have been assured that stocks of personal protection equipment are in adequate supply throughout the United Kingdom. We are reassured that all measures are being taken to ensure that these stocks are made available to those in the front line in an expedient manner. Equally, it is important that individuals and teams use the highest level of protection that is appropriate but only when required. If inappropriately high levels of protection are used the supply issues will become a major problem.
It is crucial that every individual within the surgical workforce understands the advice provided in the document from the Royal Surgical Colleges but also the advice provided by the specialty associations and their societies. You also need to be aware of the instructions regarding all surgical and endoscopic procedures within your own Trust or Health Board. The most important message is that you must practice safely.
We all understand that these are not just uncertain times, but worrying times for everyone. In particular for those acting up as frontline staff. There will be deep concern about the families and of course about the patients. All of us recognise that it is absolutely crucial that the frontline staff have access to the correct number and the most appropriate personal protection equipment for the situation in which they find themselves.
We heard today that 3 1/2 million tests had been ordered by the Health Secretary to be available primarily for healthcare workers in the first instance. It will take some time for the Ab tests to be validated and then disseminated widely. It will certainly make a huge difference to the number of workers who are potentially excluded from the workplace. We are assured by Government that this is happening as quickly as possible.
We are facing an enormous challenge to our health service and to our country. We are all carrying out our duties as healthcare professionals, as surgeons, as doctors and as family members. We all have a duty to remain safe, to look after each other and above all as Hippocrates said to do no harm.
On Monday evening I shall be hosting a webinar remotely from a number of parts of the United Kingdom to discuss difficult questions that face our Members, Fellows, Affiliates and Trainees. I’m indebted to Professor Rowan Parks, Acting Medical Director of NHS Education Scotland and Mr Simon Paterson Brown, Consultant Surgeon from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary who will join me. We will do our best to answer questions and provide advice where we can. Please send your questions in to firstname.lastname@example.org. We all look forward to meeting you on Monday.
Until then, stay safe.
Professor S Michael Griffin OBE PRCSEd MD FFSTEd FRCS(Eng)FRCP&SGlas Hon) FRCSI(Hon)FCSHK FCSSL(Hon)