The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (“the College”) has issued a plea to the public to continue to follow the COVID-19 guidance and restrictions in what they describe as a critical time for the NHS.

There has been a tremendous effort from the public in adhering to government COVID-19 guidance this year. However, as parts of the UK adapt to new tier systems, the College is calling for a big push from the public to stick with the guidance in the run up to Christmas. This will help to protect the NHS and the most at risk people in our society, as well as the wider public and their loved ones.

The number of patients with COVID-19 being admitted to many hospitals in the UK has increased in recent months, which continues to place huge pressures on an already exhausted workforce.

Winter is normally the busiest and most challenging period for the NHS, particularly during a normal flu season. It is vital, therefore, that as winter approaches, efforts are made by the public to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, by following the rules and restrictions set out by government.

The College is clear that Christmas relaxation is a time for everyone to exercise their own judgement and responsibilities, but that it does allow for an important boost to morale and spirits of the general public. Cooperation through understanding - not fear - is the right approach, the College believes. 

Professor Angela Thomas, acting president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for so many of us. We have seen a tremendous effort from the public in adhering to the guidelines throughout the year, which has helped protect the NHS and our hard working healthcare staff. We are grateful to – and thank - everyone who has contributed to this effort.

As we head into winter, we need another push to get us through this critical period and ensure that our healthcare workers are able to manage the demands placed upon them.

At this time, we really do need to drive down community transmission - both to protect individuals and to allow hospitals to cope. That is the best way to get on top of this deadly virus. However, we are clear that despite everyone's best efforts, blame should not be attributed to anyone for the virus spreading. The virus is highly infectious and it is nobody's fault if they catch COVID-19.

We urge everyone to stick with the public health guidance and restrictions to protect each other and vulnerable individuals, and to support NHS services and our healthcare workers.

Professor Sunil Bhandari, Vice President for England and Wales, said:

While the positive news regarding vaccines is encouraging, this does not mean that we can get back to normal just yet.

We are still seeing a high number of cases and, sadly, deaths within our hospitals. Therefore, we want to ensure that as much as possible is being done to encourage people to stay safe and well.

Unfortunately no one is immune to this virus and everyone must remain vigilant to protect themselves and others.

By sticking with the rules, we can, as individuals, help to reduce the burden on the NHS and healthcare workers, so that services can continue as normally as possible throughout winter.

Professor James Chalmers, Fellow of the College and Professor of Respiratory Medicine, said:

Every winter the NHS faces a surge in admissions, particularly for respiratory infections and diseases, but this winter is even more challenging because of the effects of COVID-19.

It is so important that we treat this virus with the seriousness it deserves. By following the public health advice and guidelines around physical distancing, good hand hygiene and wearing a mask, we can all play a part in slowing the spread of the virus and helping the NHS get through what is going to be a very difficult winter.

In doing so you will be looking after your loved ones, your family, the vulnerable in our society and our NHS.



1. Hear more from Prof Bhandari and Prof Chalmers in their short videos available here: