Friday, 3 April 2020

Hospital doctor eye-witness


I received this report from a friend of mine, Dr Irial Violet, who works in a hospital in the West Midlands.


I haven’t got the energy to write this well, but I want to talk about: case numbers, lockdown, PPE & the state of the NHS.

1. Cases are rising exponentially (see graph)… this is what they will do. Papers release daily infection toll with some surprise. We have known this is how the pandemic would play out, and the rate at which cases increase. Why are we surprised? And they’re going to keep on going up and up whilst people are still allowed out and about to mix and mingle and spread the virus.


2. We still need a proper lockdown - lots of us are staying indoors, but the government still hasn’t provided support to make this possible for everyone e.g. those on zero hours contracts. “Essential service” is open to interpretation. Yesterday on my drive to work the roads were still full. You’ll all have seen pictures of crowded tube carriages. Classic short-sighted Tory policy: reduce number of tubes without helping people to stay at home = more crowded tubes.


3. We still don’t have proper PPE. I’m working in A&E, and about 2/3 of the people coming in now are suspected Covid patients. We are at huge risk. We only have shitty paper masks that one consultant explained to me actually do very little. He was making his own version of the mask by doubling them up and sticking them together with medical tape. Really? Is that the best we can manage? Soon we will all start falling ill (many of my colleagues/friends already have), then we’ll have healthcare workers looking after healthcare workers at the time when our NHS is under most strain.


4. Our understaffing issue is nothing new. Matt Hancock couldn’t conceal his pride in announcing the return of retired healthcare professionals to the NHS. He smugly told us of the 6,147 nurses returning to the NHS. But we have 44,000 nursing vacancies across the UK. We are already missing 12% of our nursing workforce! Yes we need extra staff and it’s amazing people are returning to work, but there is a reason that our hospitals are already struggling to deal with the Covid outbreak and that reason is years of underfunding and austerity. And years of making it such a stressful and difficult place to work that we are chronically understaffed. Hancock 'paid tribute’ to us working in the NHS “in its hour of need”… it has been in an 'hour of need' for years, mate.

I would LOVE to be proven wrong on this, but I think we’re heading for disaster. Italy has one of the best healthcare systems in Europe, and double the number of ventilators per person that we do, yet they’re now having to nurse people in the streets outside hospitals because the wards are too full. We are still in the early(ish) stages of our outbreak but many hospitals already can’t cope. Our NHS is understaffed, underfunded, with staff inadequately protected and a government putting extra pressure on it by not facilitating a proper lockdown. I don't think there's any point pretending: I am terrified.

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