DOCTORS fear being sued for unlawful killing if they are forced to chose which Covid patients will receive treatment as the NHS faces being overwhelmed by the deadly bug.
Hospitals have faced huge numbers of patients as coronavirus continues to spread across the country with warnings the nation is facing its "most serious moment yet".
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updatesDoctors could be forced to choose who receives Covid treatment
There is now a shortage of ICU beds with concerns doctors will have to decide which patients will receive access to ventilation as they fight the bug.
And leading healthcare groups have now warned doctors are concerned they face prosecution if they make the life or death decision.
In a letter sent to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, it was warned there was "no national guidance" for how doctors should proceed in the "difficult situation".
The letter highlighted that in November Prime Minister Boris Johnson had warned of a "medical and moral disaster" if the NHS was overwhelmed, where "doctors and nurses could be forced to choose which patients to treat, who would live and who would die".
It read: "With the chief medical officers now determining that there is a material risk of the NHS being overwhelmed within weeks, our members are worried that not only do they face being put in this position but also that they could subsequently be vulnerable to a criminal investigation by the police."
It added: “The first concern of a doctor is their patients and providing the highest standard of care at all times.
“We do not believe it is right that they or other healthcare professionals should suffer from the moral injury and long-term psychological damage that could result from having to make decisions on how limited resources are allocated, while at the same time feel vulnerable to the risk of prosecution for unlawful killing.”
It has been signed off by by the Doctors’ Association UK, British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, British Medical Association, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and Medical Defence Shield, who say any emergency law should apply retrospectively from the start of the pandemic.
Medics “should not be above the law”, the letter coordinated by the Medical Protection Society adds, but they should be protected over “decisions made in good faith, in circumstances beyond their control and in compliance with relevant guidance”.
Hospitals in London have already come under immense pressure as a highly contagious variant of coronavirus rips through the South East, forcing Boris Johnson to impose a third national lockdown.
The CMO warned that, since last Monday, the situation had “deteriorated further” - with hospitals facing “the most dangerous situation anyone can remember”.
Should the surge in hospitalisations continue, Professor Whitty said “the time people wait for care will continue to increase to dangerously unsafe levels” - with nightmarish consequences for patients.
Writing in the Sunday Times, the Chief Medical Officer added: “Hospitals will not have room to take redirected emergency cases in regional networks.
“Staff-to-patient ratios — already stretched — will become unacceptable even in intensive care. There will be avoidable deaths.”
A doctor has warned that Covid intensive care patients are in "competition" for ventilators amid a rise of cases in London.
Speaking to ITN, Dr Megan Smith, of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust, discussed the current shortfall in critical care capacity across London.
"It's not a position that any of us want to be in, and we're used to making difficult decision as doctors, but deciding the outcome of - effectively - a competition for a ventilator is just not what anyone signed up for," she said.
"And in terms of the emotional trauma to those individuals, it's horrifying."
Meanwhile, the UK could face a much longer lockdown with fears easing restrictions in February would be a "disaster", even with the roll-out of the Covid vaccine.
Sage scientist Professor John Edmunds today warned if Boris Johnson lifts shutdowns too soon, the NHS will face "enormous pressure".
Health chiefs yesterday warned that 10,000 Londoners are catching coronavirus every day - even as the R-rate drops as low as 0.6.
The capital has been at the epicentre of the pandemic's second wave - and officials say the Kent strain of the virus, which is up to 70 per cent more contagious, will stop cases falling as quickly.
Deaths will continue to rise as Britain still hasn't reached peak of second wave, Chris Whitty warns