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The NHS ‘Road to Recovery’: Ethical guidance for endemic COVID-19

The Committee on Ethical Issues in Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has developed guidance for NHS staff negotiating the NHS ‘Road to Recovery’ as COVID-19 moves towards becoming an endemic disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated several changes and pauses to NHS services. In recent months, many vital NHS services have ‘re-started’ and we have moved into a new phase, with services being ‘reset’.

The government has named this the ‘Road to Recovery’ of the NHS. It is an opportunity to implement new, evidenced-based ways of working to make the NHS more effective and resilient.

The practical ethical challenges will change as different pathways for the NHS ‘Road to Recovery’ are outlined by the Department of Health and Social Care. This guidance covers the difficult and distinctive ethical issues that NHS staff will face while caring for their patients during this period and beyond:

  • Patient-Centred Care and Decision-Making
  • Reducing health inequalities
  • Caring for COVID-19 vs non-COVID-19 patients
  • Resumption of "non-clinical" care practices
  • Taking a nation-wide approach
  • The ‘Road to Recovery’ must mean striving for something better.

The guidance is supported by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.