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Cutting Surgeons' Risk

For Immediate Release



Specialists Admitted to Intensive Treatment Units with Covid-19 Currently on Ventilators

Escalated Guidance for Surgeons Amidst Asymptomatic Coronavirus Exposure

New Guidelines for High-Risk Professionals such as ENT and Maxillofacial

Calls for ALL Cosmetic Practice to Cease and for Staff/Facilities Made Available to the NHS

Increased Numbers Recorded of Burns and Injuries at Home


London – 22 March, 2020 – The UK’s only trade union representing surgeons across all specialties as well as anaesthetists, the Confederation of British Surgery (; which was founded by the Presidents of surgical specialist associations across the UK and Ireland; have issued escalated protective guidance to their members and other organisations, in the wake of heightened exposure to Novel Coronavirus.

ENT, ie Ear, Nose and Throat specialists, as well as anaesthetists, are known to be severely ill; even on ventilators and ECMO (lung/heart bypass machines); all of whom had been previously fit and well and none of whom, reportedly, were treating any diagnosed Coronavirus patients or anyone showing any symptoms. Updated guidance has been issued by organisations such as the British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (BAOMS)[1] as well as the British Laryngological Society[2] and ENT UK.

The Confederation, which includes all of these and other disciplines such as plastic surgery, are urging the high-risk professionals who work in close proximity to patients’ faces and mouths to adhere to new, stringent controls – and the public to be extra vigilant when isolating at home, where there are heightened risks of injury.

Consultant Plastic Surgeon and Founding Member of the Confederation of British Surgery Mark Henley said: 

“This is not ‘business as usual’. Surgeons and physicians who, by the nature of their practice, must place their own faces close to the unmasked face of a patient are at increased risk of contracting Covid-19. For close patient contact, a standard surgical mask is not sufficient. A FFP3 respirator mask, which is specially fitted to the user's face so no contagious droplets can enter their airways, an eye shield, apron and gloves are now essential. Surgeons are strongly advised to follow their updated association guidelines exactly and wear the appropriate personal protective equipment to minimise that risk, in order to protect themselves so that they can continue to do their job.

“They are at increased exposure during these hazardous times and we need to minimize the number of deaths of healthcare professionals in order for efforts to be sustainable.”

The Confederation stresses the importance of collaborating regardless of specialisms. Mark continues;

“As a Plastic surgeon I will be doing everything that I can to support my anaesthetic and other medical colleagues whose skills are currently much more needed than mine, but we as clinicians need every bit of help we can get from the public. If everyone engages in Social Distancing, there is the prospect that in two weeks the rate of increase in cases will start to slow but it won’t be immediate. Together in this manner we will be slowly turning off the tap which will be excellent because at the moment we are just wiping the floor. 

“We have not seen an endpoint yet and we have accepted that NHS resources and reserves will be tested severely. NHS employers should be fully aware of their duty to provide the necessary equipment and training to allow employees to keep themselves safe. The Confederation of British Surgery has complete confidence that although there may be transient local difficulties everyone involved is doing their utmost to overcome this attack on our way of life.”

Surgeons also stress the importance of safety even when isolating at home, noting an increase in admissions from patients who suffered burns or injuries; and crucially, they call upon aesthetic (‘cosmetic’) practice to cease and instead make its support available to the Health Service. Mark concludes;

As President of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons we have also issued guidelines[3] to remind the public to be particularly careful at home, as we have already seen increased scalds following accidents with home steam inhalation, and anticipate injuries from increased DIY and gardening activities.

“Further, I am asking all plastic surgeons and any other individuals and organisations engaging in all forms of cosmetic practice to put this on hold for now and to make themselves, their nursing and anaesthetic staff and any appropriate facilities available to support the NHS in this time of national emergency - possibly providing services to undertake NHS plastic surgery practice dealing with skin cancer, hand surgery and soft tissue injuries.”


Launched in November 2018, The Confederation of British Surgery (CBS is the first and only trade union to be recognised under UK law to protect the welfare of surgeons, including the extended surgical team and their families. The CBS represents all surgeons, regardless of surgical speciality or affiliation, and negotiates on their behalf the terms and conditions of service, contracts of employment, litigation and insurance. Follow @UKSurgeons

For media enquiries contact Tingy Simoes on 020 7549 2863/07973 147388.

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