It breaks my heart, but I won’t be clapping for our carers any more. When 8pm rolls round on Thursday evenings, my door will stay shut, and I won’t be joining the whistles, claps and whoops of my street. I won’t linger a few minutes afterwards chatting to my neighbour.
Our clapping doesn’t stop any healthcare worker from being sent into danger everyday. It doesn’t protect them and it doesn’t stop them dying.
The NHS is our go-to place when we’re suffering, in pain or dangerously ill. We put ourselves into the hands of the doctors and nurses who treat us, we benefit from the support work done by porters and cleaners. They rarely fail us.
It’s now our turn not to fail them. Our clapping doesn’t stop any healthcare worker from being sent into danger everyday. It doesn’t protect them and it doesn’t stop them dying.
But our clapping gives the impression things are working and lets the government off the hook. In fact it lets them join us, as if they’re not responsible for the perilous situation in which healthcare workers find themselves, and for the deaths of healthcare staff. They can step out at 8pm, Boris Johnson (now he’s back), Hancock, Rishi Sunak and all the others, as if they moved heaven and earth to provide tests and equipment for our medical staff and care workers.
It’s a government’s duty to protect its citizens, and that includes all healthcare staff. What happens to us, if at the end of this Covid pandemic there aren’t enough medical staff or care workers to look after the general population?
It always seemed rather suspicious when the government started announcing they’d made available, this many and that many million pieces of Personal Protective Equipment. I’d think, surely they should be announcing them as kit, the combination of gown, masks, gloves and so on, which form the required protection for front-line staff.
And now we know, from the Panorama programme their accounting was highly creative if not downright imaginary. To count a pair of gloves, as two gloves, to include waste bags and paper towels as PPE, is simply a lie. I’m surprised they didn’t count the individual sheets in the rolls of paper towels. That would have increased the numbers even more gratifyingly for the government.
It’s not just a scandal, it’s dangerous and a dereliction of duty. Lives are at stake. The lives of healthcare staff and the lives of their patients. Coronavirus is the deadliest disease for a hundred years. Our government knew from January onwards what was heading towards Britain. They had time to prepare and organize supplies. “We’ve been put on the front-line but without front-line protection,” says Dr. Irial Eno in the Panorama programme. As a viewer, it was alarming to watch the young doctor who dons a thin plastic apron, as his PPE, knowing he’s on his way to treat patients with Covid-19.
The government wants us to be Clapping for Carers every week; generating a victorious atmosphere and neatly shifting attention away from their own failings. Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. It had the money and the infrastructure to start organizing PPE, ventilators and other essentials, as soon as the threat became clear at the beginning of the year. Our Covid response didn’t have to become this terrible, double-edged sword where our health workers are as endangered as the patients they’re trying to save.
Over 100 healthcare workers have died so far. Their photographs haunt our imaginations, so vivid and full of life. They weren’t in a war zone. When they took on their jobs they didn’t know they’d be required to lay down their lives. All of them have left behind families and loved ones. The heartbreak must be unbearable.
Hard as it is, I won’t be clapping on Thursday nights. We all value our NHS and admire the courage and dedication of healthcare staff. In return, we should be demanding the government do not endanger them and must provide proper protection. Let’s silence the streets, turn off our lights and darken our windows. Send a message the government cannot ignore.
COMMENTS ON THE ARTICLE:
I received numerous responses, covering the spectrum from fully agreeing, to disagreeing, to being rather racist and hostile. I decided I wanted to give a reflection of the responses (apart from the racist ones – no need to spread their bigotry), and decided to choose a selection from readers either directly or indirectly, connected with healthcare.
Of the responses published below, the writers have given their consent, and chosen whether they wish to be anonymous or for their name to appear.
*Dear Ravinder Well said! I am one one those carers and I absolutely abhor the deflection of interest away from the governments failings. Carers have been left with practically zero PPE and CQC (a govenment body) have been nowhere to be seen. Thank you for saying what I was unable to say (Shaun).
*I read your article in the Huffington post. You have disrespected everyone who have shown their appreciation on a Thursday night by clapping for the NHS. There cannot be many in this great country who have not been grateful for our NHS. You have turned this show of appreciation by the people into a political stance. Shame on you. I worked in the NHS for 39 years and returned to work recently by rejoining the Nurse and Midwifery Council’s temporary Covid-19 register. (Lorraine Topliss)
*I am writing to commend you on the above article which so mirrors my own sentiments on this topic. In fact, I switch off on Thursday nights at 8 pm and repeat to my husband how irritated and disgusted I am at this hypocrisy by the government. Yes, I think it gives them a cop out and have been truly amazed and disappointed at their ability to continue to hoodwink the public with their blatant untruths about PPE. Both my husband and I are retired NHS workers, but we still have two sons and a daughter in law working in the service, not to mention the children of close friends. Never have I seen a British government display such incompetence and ineptitude in a crisis as this one has. (Yolanda M. Agble)
*I am deeply saddened that you will not be clapping for the NHS staff and all Carers tonight. I certainly will be, as there are many members of our family including our daughter, on the frontline, as doctors helping very ill Covid 19 and other patients and liaising with their distressed families. My brother in law, as a retired consultant in Infectious diseases, has even returned to the frontline, aged72, in a large busy hospital. I WILL be clapping for THEM and all staff and Carers in the NHS and elsewhere and anyone else working tirelessly to keep this country running, as a mark of deep respect for them. To do otherwise will make them feel isolated and work in the dark. To show this mark of respect is NOT, as stated by you, because the Prime Minister, Government or any Politician wants us too, I think you, unfortunately, are making this into a political issue which I think many people including me certainly do not! I urge you to clap for this wonderful group of people as a mark of gratitude and respect to all of them. The post mortem following the return to ‘normality’ is the right moment for the political issues to come to the fore and for those responsible for any failings to be held to account. (Anonymous)
*Hi Ravinder I just read your comments on MSN Homepage re clapping (or not) for NHS workers. I wanted to clap for you!! At last, I find someone who agrees with my opinion! I am a Registered Nurse working in Acute Care. I see the scandal in my day to day job, despite not working in ‘infected’ areas. In fact. the scandal is worse working in designated ‘clean areas’. Patients here, admitted with NO screening process, later suspected of being positive to Covid 19, but awaiting swab results, cared for by health care workers wearing cheap, thin plastic aprons, wrist length gloves and non-fitted paper masks. The only protection added to this universal precaution, a plastic visor that is shared by all staff entering the isolated area the patient is held in. How dare the Government think it acceptable practice to profit by holding shares in companies providing the NHS with supplies?? That is another scandal. The NHS should be managed totally apolitically!! How dare the Government play fast and loose with so many innocent lives by not declaring their own interests, which would, of course, show with transparency why many decisions have been taken that continue the already practiced undermining of the NHS in their determination to privatise health care. How dare the Government not declare that the NHS ‘coping’ was bought about by the directive to discharge as many elderly or chronically sick patients into an already struggling community service. In addition, postponing all non-urgent elective surgery, and in not providing field hospitals for all Covid/?Covid positive cases, therefore keeping all infection away from our hospitals, scaring the ill public away from emergency healthcare. How dare the Government advise coroners not to investigate the use of PPE in deaths caused by Covid 19, and, perhaps even worse, encourage practice of NOT putting Covid 19 on death certificates where co-morbidities existed. This Government has flagrantly abused it’s position, evading direct answers to probing questions, and downright lying by being very selective about declared statistics. We need a ‘Yarrow March’ response to this, with the public being made aware that the above are facts, not suspicions or the rantings of left wing loonies. The NHS was in a very precarious position before this state of affairs, and I very much doubt that Boris had sufficient an epiphany during his recent ill health episode, to prevent the already rolling governmental steam train completely flattening the NHS in the coming years! (Anonymous)
*Dear Ravinder, I found your article informative and I agree with everything you said. I am a hoping you would be able to help me with a serious problem I am encountering here in north Norfolk. My mum Mary is 94 , very bright, has all her marbles etc. The care home she lives in is called Benjamin court , Cromer Norfolk . this has been her home for 8 years, before I go on ,the help I think you can do for me is to get this issue out into the media ..I think you will agree when you read my story, that this is a terrible unacceptable thing happening to our most vulnerable people. I am not allowed to visit my mum and she is not allowed out of her small flat, as per government guidelines, there are 30 elderly and disabled living there, no dementia so every lovely resident is very well aware as to what is going on. Its very homey and the carers are wonderful, so far there has been no covid 19 . now to the issue .. the building is a small one storey building it used to have a small hospital ward at the other end of a horseshoe shape building , this was used for convalescence , it was closed down 3ish years ago to much protest ..this decision was money based. the building was converted to council offices and one half retained non medical beds called reablement unit, for people to get over minor things with no medical staff employed , only carers.. anyway it has now been decided by the nhs faceless departments that they will reinstate hospital beds etc. to house covid 19 patients . the stress level as you can imagine is so high . the residents are very fearful anyway with what they see on the news everyday re care home fatalities. there is absolutely no need for this unit .. we have several purpose built hospital sites here in Norfolk that are underused .. and also there is no patients in these nightingale hospitals that were opened to big fanfares.. why not ? I am very emotional about this. My local mp is involved as are other residents relatives , but we are struggling to have a voice.. I have contacted local press and national press .. no interest.. maybe these care home residents need to die before it becomes news. (Janice Crawley)
*Good Afternoon Ravinder, I trust you are keeping well during these very ‘dark’ and restrictive times. I have just read the blog you wrote for HuffPost and agree with your sentiments. Clapping for the NHS is in someway taking the onus off what HM Government should have done well in advance to lockdown in order to protect frontline workers prior to and during lockdown. My charity, www.masis.org.uk, is aiming to highlight the vital work being undertaken by the many unsung heroes who are keeping the UK operating during these difficult times. I think you will agree that with the global affects which the Coronavirus pandemic is having, now is the time for more effective networking and collaborating in order to ensure improved health and wellbeing of disabled and vulnerable people and their carers. I think (as your blog has indicated) that although it is essential that we recognise and appreciate the efforts of all NHS personnel, it is also essential that we recognise all key workers from a wide range of service providing organisations as well as commercial and manufacturing companies and retailers who have put their own health at risk to address the daily requirements of the UK’s population during lockdown. (Peter Lyne. Founder. Mobility and Support Information Service (MASIS). 0151 648 3457 or 07774 405734.)