Blog 5th April 2020
I am dedicating this blog to holding the Government to account over its handling of the Coronavirus. It must do better.
My message to this government is straight forward - get on with a testing programme and contact tracing otherwise we are going to lurch from lockdown to lockdown and more people will die as a result.
As a retired health care professional, (nurse and Director of Public Health), I have become ever more worried over the government’s response to the pandemic.
We are not adhering to the World Health Organisation’s advice and we will have catastrophic consequences to following our own path. We must test, test and test.
To begin with we had too slow a response and the heinous herd immunity approach taken at the beginning was genocide for older people and those with health conditions.
I am hugely concerned that we are being told lies and misled daily. To all those who would say this is no time to criticise the government and we must all pull together, I say not at the expense of lives. The government must be made to change tack and held to account. That’s down to each and every one of us. Where the right approach has been taken its right to acknowledge that. I applaud our local MP Steve Double for working hard to try and stop visitors and second homeownerscoming to Cornwall. Unfortunately, we do have a higher number of cases in Cornwall than some other areas of the SW and this may well be to people migrating here before the partial lockdown.
So how are we being misled?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Staff have said they haven’t got PPE either of the right sort, any or not enough, the government assures us they have got PPE. There’s too much evidence to show that staff haven’t got it. Staff are working in incredibly difficult and dangerous situations they must be supplied with the right kit to do their job and not be made to put themselves and others at a higher risk than necessary. The public health system that would have made sure that pandemic supplies of PPE were where it was needed no longer exists. Under the governments 2012 healthcare reforms local public health is no longer part of the NHS. In addition the regional public health bodies were abolished. During the swine flu pandemic a tried and tested distribution system was in place for distribution of PPE. It worked. Distribution system and daily situation reports made sure kit was where it needed to be.
The pandemic supplies were not as complete as they should have been. The costs of visors and eye protection was considered prohibitive and therefore limited to highly specialised areas of the NHS, which was in contradiction to the findings and recommendations of the pandemic flu planning exercises and reports. The costs of PPE should not be a consideration in protecting our brave and much needed NHS and social care staff. The Treasury have not been so penny pinching when it’s come to protecting business.
Knowing that they didn’t have the right kit what did the government do? Not a lot until more recently when they have involved the army in getting supplies where they are needed. Good move but why not earlier? Surely this should have appended as soon as the first reports came in that staff didn’t have the kit they needed? There are schools, colleges and local communities banding together to make sure staff have the PPE they need. If you can sew please get involved. Yes,local people are buying material and making up scrubs andface masks for our wonderful NHS staff – Cornwall Cloth Masks and Cornwall Scrubs. Find them on Facebook.
Staff are being disciplined if they speak out about a lack of PPE. This is totally unacceptable and not to be countenanced. We must know so we can help, that is what we do well and can do together.
There has been a lot of confusion about ventilators. There are not sufficient numbers within the NHS for what we are expected to need. They weren’t ordered in a timely fashion and there is still confusion over who has been asked to make them and who hasn’t. A public appeal went out much later than it should have and now many teams are creating ventilators and other novel forms of aiding lung function and oxygenation. We should have clear information about what has and hasn’t been ordered and the numbers of ventilators we now have on a daily basis. A big thank you to China who sent 300 ventilators to the UK today.
We are not as a country testing enough and are not following the World Health Organisations recommendation to test, test and test. We need to contact trace all contacts of people who are found to be positive and isolate those contacts to contain the spread of the virus, to prevent further outbreaks. We also need to have community testing on a widespread scale to manage the pandemic and understand its pattern and effect. Once we have more knowledge on levels of resistance that develop following recovery from having Covid19, we will be able to determine whether that would enable people to go about their business and lives as normal.
The information on what tests we have and haven’t bought and the missing of targets the government have itself set are woefully inadequate.
Like the NHS the public health system in this country has been reorganised, cut and underfunded. The system has been decimated and the command and control structures that used to exist have been demolished. That is not to say there aren’t exceptional people who still work in public health but their numbers and budgets are mightily reduced.
Financial aid for those most in need.
I can’t write a blog without failing to mention the Government’s economic assistance during the pandemic. The Government must do better for people who are now left with no money. People on zero hours contracts, part time workers and the self-employed. It is good there is a package for people who are self-employed, but it won’t start till June and won’t be available for everyone. Most of the measures theGovernment have introduced have benefited the already wealthy and the economic divide is widening even further. A universal basic income could have a cut-off point and therefore not given to all and certainly not to people who already have sufficient.
I hope by the time of my next blog many of these issues will have been resolved.
The news has just come in that Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for further tests. I wish him a speedy recovery. As I do everyone who has been affected by the virus.
This blog will be created by members of the Exec committee on topics of interest to the St Austell & Newquay Labour Party