There has been substantial coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout, some of which has been factual, some just anecdotal and some completely false. It’s important that you have factual information and draw upon reputable sources to support your discussions, should you be asked to discuss the topic during your medical school interview.
The following are useful sources of information in relation to COVID-19:
The following are useful sources of information in relation to COVID-19 vaccinations:
The following are key ethical issues in relation to COVID-19 which you may wish to explore in more detail:
A key piece of ethical guidance from the General Medical Council’s (GMC) Good Medical Practice is that as a doctor you should ‘make the care of your patient your first concern’. COVID-19 poses a potential risk to all, including healthcare professionals, who continue to put patients first and provide treatment and care for those who require it.
The GMC advises that ‘if a patient poses a risk to your health or safety, you should take all available steps to minimise the risk before providing treatment’ but it is clear that you must not deny treatment because it puts you at risk.
You may want to consider the impact for medical staff, the risks they have taken and the sacrifices they have made to ensure that they uphold ethical standards and provide a ‘good standard of practice and care’.
We provide more detail about the issue surrounding inadequate PPE in the section below, but in terms of ethical considerations, the GMC provides further clarification on the ethical standards in relation to this which is useful for your research. It reiterates that the guidance states that where there is a risk to doctors, they should try to minimise this as much as possible, as they ‘recognise that it’s not just patients who need protection’. Furthermore, the GMC states that ‘all our guidance requires professional judgment and the application of principles to the context doctors face’. There is also some practical advice for treating patients if you think your PPE is inadequate, with suggestions for considerations.
Social media continues to play a role in sharing information about COVID-19, and although this can be problematic at times, depending on what information is being shared and by who, it has been utilised as a tool by many, including the government and the NHS.
The GMC provides guidance on Doctors’ Use of Social Media, which acknowledges the benefits to patient care; for example, doctors can engage people in ‘public health and policy discussions’ and ‘facilitate patients’ access to information about health and services’.
You may even have observed instances of doctors sharing information about COVID-19 on social media, which will provide you with examples of this is practice. However, there are standards which doctors must adhere to if they share information on social media; this includes ensuring that they maintain boundaries between themselves and their patients, maintaining confidentiality and ensuring that they identify themselves by name if they are identifying themselves as a doctor. In addition to this, doctors must ensure that they ‘maintain trust in [them] and the profession’, as set out in the Good Medical Practice, at all times, including through their use of social media.
In addition to the GMC’s usual range of ethical guidance for doctors, their COVID Question and Answers provides specific advice and ethical guidance in relation to the pandemic, which you may find useful for your interview preparations.
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There’s a range of issues and areas that you may be asked about, or choose to refer to in your discussions, should the topic of COVID-19 arise at your interview. The following are some ideas which you may want to explore in more depth:
You may want to consider how prepared the UK was for the COVID-19 outbreak and how it was dealt with in the initial stages. The government released a policy paper in November 2020, UK pandemic preparedness, which examines the ‘pandemic preparedness plans’ and key learnings as a result. This identified that the plans set out in the UK Influenza Preparedness Strategy 2011 were ‘leveraged to form the basis of the government’s initial response to COVID-19’. The Coronavirus action plan: a guide to what you can expect across the UK, which was published in March 2020, also looks at how the government plans for infectious outbreaks, what actions were initially taken and what they planned to do next.
Reports of PPE shortages and inadequate PPE were reported in the media, particularly during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Doctors’ Association UK launched a campaign, Protect the Frontline, which calls for ‘adequate PPE and a review of Public Health England PPE recommendations’, among other concerns. The British Medical Association (BMA) has repeatedly shared news articles throughout the pandemic focusing on PPE; from ‘Doctors demand effective protection from coronavirus’ in March 2020, to ‘Lack of protection unmasked 1’ in April 2020, right up to January 2021 with a ‘Call for enhanced PPE’.
There’s a range of areas to cover in relation to COVID-19 vaccination, including:
The government’s daily update on the number of patients admitted to hospital shows the demand on the NHS. The pressure that the NHS is experiencing has been one of the main areas of concerns throughout the pandemic. You may want to consider the following in relation to this:
You may want to focus on the indirect impact of COVID-19 on people’s health and wellbeing, including:
COVID-19 is a broad topic to prepare for, but you will already have a good understanding and awareness of the issues surrounding it. As mentioned in the introduction, focus on using reputable sources for your research and to support your answers / discussions during your interview.