Doctors across the UK have been warned of a "gruelling" second wave and a difficult winter.

Vaccine news from recent days may have sparked hope and optimism for many, but the road away from Covid-19 is still long and presents many challenges for health care professionals.

The chief medical officers of Scotland, together with those from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the NHS, the GMC and the medical royal colleges have all signed a letter to doctors regarding the months ahead. 

The letter urges doctors to stay "flexible", and warns them they may be required to work in clinical areas outside their usual practice which could be "stressful."

The letter states that the second wave “may well be prolonged throughout the winter period, with wide local variation and fluctuation in cases, requiring a sustained response from the whole profession”.

It warned: “This will be gruelling professionally and personally.”

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It added that pressure will “inevitably be exacerbated by staff shortages” expected due to sickness or caring responsibilities, but assured doctors that regulators will take into account the need for temporary changes to practice.

Hospitals, trusts and healthcare leaders were also told to “bear in mind that clinicians may need to depart, possibly significantly, from established procedures in order to care for patients in the highly challenging circumstances of the epidemic”.

Healthcare regulators, including the General Medical Council, stressed their committment to taking into account "factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working”, the letter said.

It added that coronavirus restrictions imposed across the UK will result in the initial peak of pressure on the healthcare system being “significantly lower” than it otherwise might have been.

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The letter concluded: “We all need to support one another during this time. It is, and is going to remain, hard going but mutual support makes this prolonged crisis easier to manage personally, as well as professionally.”

"Finally, we would like to thank you again for all the tireless efforts you have and will continue to make.

"We are very proud of the response of the entire medical profession whether clinical, public health or laboratory to this unique challenge. It has been exemplary."