Dear Honourable Members and Members of Parliament,
03/04/2020 Comments Off on Dear Honourable Members and Members of Parliament,
April 2, 2020
I am writing to share with you the following urgent statement by Richard Horton, founder editor of The Lancet, the most important medical journal in the world:
“When this is all over, the NHS England board should resign in their entirety.” So wrote one National Health Service (NHS) health worker last weekend. The scale of anger and frustration is unprecedented, and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is the cause. The UK Government’s Contain–Delay–Mitigate–Research strategy failed. It failed, in part, because ministers didn’t follow WHO’s advice to “test, test, test” every suspected case. They didn’t isolate and quarantine. They didn’t contact trace. These basic principles of public health and infectious disease control were ignored, for reasons that remain opaque. The UK now has a new plan—Suppress–Shield–Treat–Palliate. But this plan, agreed far too late in the course of the outbreak, has left the NHS wholly unprepared for the surge of severely and critically ill patients that will soon come. I asked NHS workers to contact me with their experiences. Their messages have been as distressing as they have been horrifying. “It’s terrifying for staff at the moment. Still no access to personal protective equipment [PPE] or testing.” “Rigid command structures make decision making impossible.” “There’s been no guidelines, it’s chaos.” “I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel protected.” “We are literally making it up as we go along.” “It feels as if we are actively harming patients.” “We need protection and prevention.” “Total carnage.” “NHS Trusts continue to fail miserably.” “Humanitarian crisis.” “Forget lockdown—we are going into meltdown.” “When I was country director in many conflict zones, we had better preparedness.” “The hospitals in London are overwhelmed.” “The public and media are not aware that today we no longer live in a city with a properly functioning western health-care system.” “How will we protect our patients and staff…I am speechless. It is utterly unconscionable. How can we do this? It is criminal…NHS England was not prepared…We feel completely helpless.” Lancet, 28 March 2020.
I call on you to take immediate action to secure millions of proper tests for the virus, not just antibody tests, masks, fully protective clothing and goggles NOW – first, for all our frontline health workers in the hospitals, but also for all the support staff whose involvement is required to back them up, and for those in social care work as well – doctors, mid-level providers, reception staff, administrators, cleaners, ambulance staff, kitchen staff, mortuary staff – pharmacy staff – home care & nursing home staff.
TEST! TEST! TEST! – the Director General of the World Health Organization has said from Day One!
I call on you to test everyone with symptoms and do contact tracing to isolate at-risk others.
There is no excuse for the inaction we are seeing from the government, whose lack of understanding of what is needed is abysmal. This country is full of public health experts. Why are they not being asked to advise the government?
Secondly, I am writing to support the call by the European People’s Party, which unites the parties of 11 EU leaders, including Angela Merkel and Leo Varadkar, who issued a statement calling on the government to extend the Brexit transition beyond the end of the year (Guardian 30 March 2020) and for some years after that.
I urge you to support this, no matter what your views on Brexit were/are personally. Why? The majority of our trade is with Europe, including and especially food and medicines. With Europe it is possible to have access to and share essential goods – such as COVID-19 tests, masks, protective clothing, emergency equipment like ventilators for the NHS – and have immediate access to essential information and joint strategies for action to defeat this virus. Put Little England to bed in the last century.
We should also be working with Europe to help the poorest countries of the global south in this pandemic as they have access to NOTHING, and also to support the frontline UN agencies who are seeking to get medical and other supplies to the global south! The Cubans have sent doctors to help other countries. After 10 years of Tory austerity we don’t even have enough health professionals for our own services. We’re down 5,000 midwives, and for how many years now? And the government sends messages of praise to health workers!
I was both heartened and appalled listening to the Opposition Debate on 25 March on the Parliament Channel. Heartened that the opposition parties were so articulate in their demands on the government, all of which were absolutely correct demands, and appalled at the heart-breaking stories of constituents and examples of government failures to act that were shared – while the government front bench was almost entirely absent, not listening, pretending they were acting and making transparently pathetic excuses for inaction. Especially the so-called “miscommunication” excuse following the failure to accept ventilators offered from Europe, which discredited Boris Johnson forever in my eyes.
Lastly, the Prime Minister had a good excuse to prorogue Parliament yet again, to protect all of you, but why are you not insisting on a formal sitting online on a daily basis in order to monitor, criticise, correct and place non-stop demands for appropriate policy and action on the government. The Prime Minister has been taking very bad advice on this pandemic, ignoring the best advice and dragging his feet on everything – putting many of the people of this country in serious danger. Seeing the faces of doctors who have died unnecessarily on the news last night, when they could have been protected, was the last straw.
People with money can more easily protect themselves. It’s the rest who need massive support, and in addition to health care, need secure housing, food and financial safety above all.
Lastly, I’m 73 years old but I’m not going to lay down and die for anyone. My age group is not expendable. We have experience and history to share and the courage to write letters like this. I shall keep writing to you and urging my friends and colleagues to do the same until you get it right. I hope you do so very soon.
PLEASE MAKE IT YOUR FIRST PRIORITY TO DEMAND PROVISION OF TESTS, MASKS, PROTECTIVE CLOTHING AND GOGGLES FOR ALL FRONTLINE AND ALL HEALTH WORKERS IN OUR HOSPITALS, AND THEN EVERYONE PROVIDING HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE, AND SECONDLY APPROPRIATE ACTION TO EXTEND THE BREXIT TRANSITION SO AS TO PARTICIPATE IN DEFEATING THIS VIRUS IN TANDEM WITH THE REST OF EUROPE NOW. AND LISTEN TO THE OPPOSITION PARTIES BECAUSE THEY ARE TAKING EXPERT ADVICE AND KNOW WHAT THEY TALKING ABOUT.