Patients are starting to suffer because health and care workers are unable to purchase fuel
"I’ve had to prioritise clients to whom I live closest, and those most vulnerable. Those with family members nearby, I’ve told them I’m probably not going to be able to see them." Rosie, carer
The fuel crisis is starting to have an effect on the care of vulnerable patients, community and mental health service providers have warned.
Many petrol stations are running short of fuel as a result of panic buying, after the oil firm BP warned that it would have to close some of its petrol stations because of the lack of lorry drivers. Currently there is a shortage of about 100,000 HGV drivers.
Crystal Oldman, chief executive for the Queen’s Nursing Institute, which represents community nurses, told the journal HSJ that the fuel shortage was already affecting them: “This potentially means nurses cannot get to the patients they need to if they are unable to access fuel. At the very least, it will mean more time searching for petrol stations that have a supply, taking valuable time from their working day and more unpaid overtime will be undertaken as nurses will always prioritise their patient care.”
Natalie Shenker, co-founder of the Human Milk Foundation, expressed concern that the crisis was impacting the charity’s ability to recruit donors. “The volume of milk coming in is already reducing, and the capacity to support families affected by maternal death or cancer is falling,” she told HSJ.
Rosie, a carer from Norfolk, told the Guardian earlier this week that she had been unable to get fuel: “I’ve had to prioritise clients to whom I live closest, and those most vulnerable. Those with family members nearby, I’ve told them I’m probably not going to be able to see them. I think I can get through to Wednesday, then I’m completely stuck.”
A social worker told the paper that she had had to cancel her home visits to check on. “I’ve alerted my manager who has allocated staff to help cover and I pray nothing happens in the meantime,” she said.
Patient transport has also been affected. A source at a patient transport provider in the West Midlands told HSJ that it had been “a bit of a nightmare”. The provider had had to turn down a request for a patient going to London because of the fuel shortage and because of climate protesters disrupting motorway transport: “Ultimately those patients are either at home and distressed carrying a big risk in the community or [accident and emergency] departments which [are not] the right settings.”
The British Medical Association, the body representing doctors, has asked for key workers to be given priority access to petrol stations. The government, however, has refused to do so, probably because of the complexity of implementing such an arrangement.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, has said that the crisis could be stabilising. Plans are underway for 150 military drivers to help deliver fuel to petrol stations.