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RCS statement on the Coronavirus Action Plan

05 Mar 2020

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is working closely with medical bodies and government to ensure that our members, fellows, and surgical colleagues across the country are informed with the latest advice on Coronavirus. We participate in daily briefing calls, and are helping disseminate best practice advice to the surgical community.

We are fully signed up to The Department of Health and Social Care’s coronavirus action plan published on Tuesday. We agree that proportionate and phased 1 action, based on the latest evidence, is sensible. The plan notes that the majority of people with COVID-19 have recovered without the need for any specific treatment, as is the case for the common cold or seasonal flu. Furthermore, we note that the government expects the vast majority of patients will best be managed at home, rather than in hospital.

However, in view of the potential for the virus to affect a large percentage of the population, the impact on the NHS could still be significant. Planning for the ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ is therefore prudent. Should efforts to contain the virus be unsuccessful, then we would support the recommendation that hospitals focus on those patients with the greatest need. As doctors, focusing on those with the greatest need is what we all do, all of the time.

We support the government’s approach of aiming to delay the expected peak in cases further out into the year, when other winter pressures affecting hospitals are less acute.

Surgeons and surgical teams across the UK are rolling up their sleeves to help out. Many are holding back from booking family holidays. Recently retired staff might consider contacting their Trust to offer help. If the worst case scenario does come to pass, and a fifth of the country’s workforce go off sick, then it will be all hands on deck.

The best advice meanwhile is for everyone to support efforts to limit spread of the virus. That means washing hands thoroughly and regularly. If you believe you are at particular risk because of travel or contact with others, then consult reliable, government sources of advice. Do not go to your GP, call NHS 111. Detailed guidance for surgical teams and other healthcare professionals to assist them in advising patients and the public is available on



1.   Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible
Delay: slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season
Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care
Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

For more information, please contact the Press Office:

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