is the Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Council and just as the UK battles through another wave of the coronavirus pandemic and heads into a nationwide lockdown, he reflects on the many challenges that lie ahead in the New Year and expresses the hope that frontline workers can be vaccinated against the deadly virus at speed.
We end a very long and difficult year with a health service buckling under the strain of more people in hospital with Covid than at any point in the pandemic.
I give my heartfelt thanks to those of you who provided vital services during the festive break, and to each and every one of you for your dedication and tireless work in playing your part to protect the health of the nation and our patients throughout the last year.
While all of us became doctors ready to take on the toughest of challenges in caring for patients, none of us could have anticipated working through a pandemic that has wreaked such havoc on our health service and society over the past year. Indeed 2020 will probably be remembered as the most physically and mentally taxing year in our professional lives.
As we turn to face the year ahead, we do so in the midst of a third wave fuelled by a new variant of the virus, with increasing reports of hospitals declaring major incidents, ICU beds reaching 100 percent capacity in parts of the country, and patients having to be transferred to other hospitals for care.
The rollout of the and vaccines offers hope that an end is in sight. It is testament to the remarkable achievements of medical science that vaccines against coronavirus have been developed in just 10 months - rather than 10 years. And it is a credit to the unstinting work of our health care staff in hospitals and GPs and teams in primary care, that we are ending the year with over half million of our most vulnerable patients having received the first dose of the vaccine.
However we are still months away from enough of the population being vaccinated to return to any semblance of normality. So the months ahead will be as challenging, if not more so, as when the virus first peaked in April. We know from our tracker surveys that over four in 10 doctors mental health has deteriorated during the pandemic, and with many exhausted form working flat out without taking adequate leave for over 10 months.
The BMA is here to continue to support you in 2021; to ensure that doctors alongside other frontline workers receive the Covid vaccine as an immediate priority; that we are provided with adequate protective equipment so we can continue to care for patients, and to safeguard our wellbeing as we get through the third wave.