A third of UK doctors treated Covid patients without full PPE 

An international report on the experiences of doctors with Covid-19 has found that 34% of UK doctors have treated Covid-19 patients in person without sufficient PPE. 

The UK ranked fifth out of eight countries surveyed in the provision of PPE – behind Portugal, the US, Brazil and Germany. Mexico, France and Spain ranked lower than the UK.

One-in-ten British doctors surveyed said they often treated Covid-19 patients without sufficient PPE, with the report finding the UK had the second highest rate of infections among doctors (19%) behind Spain (20%) and ahead of Brazil and France (15%).  

The Medscape US and International Physicians COVID-19 Experience Report, features responses from more than 7,000 doctors worldwide on their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, including 402 from the UK. The survey covered clinical experiences as well as the out-of-work implications for healthcare professionals.

The report brings into sharp focus the impact of Covid-19 on the physical and mental health of doctors. One-in-five UK doctors reported drinking more alcohol and more than a quarter (27%) say they have been eating more since the pandemic began. 

Stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines have made home relationships more stressed for nearly four out of ten (39%), and 42% report greater loneliness. 

Doctors across all countries surveyed also report their relationships have become more stressed, but the UK ranked the highest in workplaces offering activities to help with grief and stress (55%), compared to 43% in the US and 25% in Germany.

Despite the challenges faced by many doctors recently, only 26% say they wish to retire earlier than previously planned. Half or more of doctors across the countries agree that a vaccine will be available within 18 months.

Key findings

Doctors diagnosed with Covid-19

  • 19% of UK doctors had been diagnosed with Covid-19, second only behind Spain, of which 20% of doctors were diagnosed;  
  • 18% of UK doctors confirmed members of their immediate family had also been diagnosed with Covid-19 during the outbreak.

Doctors treating patients with Covid-19

  • 60% of UK doctors have treated Covid-19 patients in person and a further 15% have treated patients via the phone.

Changing doctors’ habits

Since lockdown or stay-at-home measures have been imposed:

  • 38% of UK doctors have been doing more exercise, 34% doing less; 
  • 3% of UK doctors have been using more prescription stimulants/medication. 

Returning to normal working practices

  • 76% of UK doctors are now seeing patients with non-Covid-19 diseases, who should have come earlier to seek help but did not because of the pandemic. This is the second lowest figure in Europe above Germany with 69%.

Most UK doctors (66%) believe it is their obligation to volunteer to treat Covid-19 patients. Many physicians experienced a change in their life philosophy. One survey respondent revealed: ‘For the first time, I was aware of my own vulnerability to a disease. It has created the need for a thoughtful review of practice routines and the need to alter the environment to minimise the transmission of the disease.’

For more findings, view the full report on Medscape: www.medscape.com/2020-physician-covid-experience

Report methodology

Medscape member physicians were invited to participate in an online survey in English. Respondents were required to be practising physicians. 7,414 respondents met the screening criteria and completed the survey; U.S. respondents were weight to the American Medical Association membership by gender, region, age, and specialty.  United States (n=5,005), Brazil (n=400), France (n=152), Germany (n=273), Mexico (n=400), Portugal (n=382), Spain (n=400), United Kingdom (n=402).  Recruitment period June 9, 2020 through July 20, 2020.