The government has been warned that health workers must be given priority or patient care will be “compromised” during the current fueling crisis.
As pumps are drying up across the country due to panic, there have been reports of doctors and medical staff unable to go to work.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said there is “a real risk that NHS staff will not be able to do their jobs”, while the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said health services that are “already struggling” with staffing shortages have been “Cannot afford to lose another employee because they are unable to travel”.
Campaign group EveryDoctor said at least one NHS organization held an emergency meeting after staff were unable to work.
A hospital consultant in Bedfordshire told the organisation, which represents 1,700 doctors: “We had an emergency discussion this morning. Two consultants are out in our department and can’t go to work. Two others are in reserve. All four petrol stations within four miles of our hospital are closed without fuel.”
Patricia Marquis, director of RCN England, said: “We already know that some nursing staff are warning their employers that they cannot attend tomorrow to ensure that shifts can be staffed safely .
“In light of these supply problems, priority should be given to health and care workers or patient care will be compromised.”
Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) said it supports the call to prioritize access to fuel for healthcare workers to ensure they can work safely and on time.
“At a time when the pressure on ambulance services is unprecedented – largely due to the pandemic and its far-reaching impact – it is vital that our staff find work to help save lives and care for patients,” said Anna Parry, Deputy Managing Director of AACE.
“Removing any potential hurdles in searching and queuing for fuel supplies will certainly help.”
Dr Chand Nagpaul, chairman of the council at the BMA, said: “Everyone will have their own reasons for needing to fill up, but as pumps run dry, there is a real risk that NHS staff will not be able to do their jobs and provide for their fill. Vital services and care for those who urgently need it.
“Priority must be given to fuel health care and essential workers so that they can continue their vital work and guarantee care to patients.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said designated petrol stations should be reserved for all essential workers – a policy adopted during the fuel crisis of September 2000.
“As the current shortage in fuel delivery affects petrol stations across the capital, it is essential that key workers be able to obtain fuel to go to work and provide the services our city needs,” he said.
“The government should immediately consider taking necessary steps to take such measures, so that key workers who have to go to work can do so.”
Ministers meanwhile issued a new appeal to motorists to stop panic buying as Boris Johnson backtracked from plans to deploy troops to ensure access to the fuel supply forecourt.
Downing Street said the government was monitoring the situation on a daily basis, but there are currently no plans to use the military to haul fuel tankers.
Ministers are hoping the pressure will ease as motorists go back to their regular buying pattern, with filling stations running dry across the country due to a surge in demand last week.