The Year the NHS Failed the People of Britain

10 October 2020. Updated 11 October 2020.

I am a UK GP and feel devastated at the catastrophe unfolding before us and the harm that governmental decisions (un-debated, unchallenged and ignoring the evidence) have done. The last straw was Matt Hancock’s October 9th tweet:

To which I say, what utter rot. As a GP I know hospital activity is less, because we get fewer inpatient/outpatient letters from them, and many of those we do request us to do tests that they are no longer inclined to do. When I see a patient with life-threatening symptoms they are terrified to go to hospital, fearing Covid. Cancer screening has been suspended, and cancer diagnostic tests are delayed, scanty and often not the optimal tests – I am already aware of delayed cancer diagnoses and treatment. Outpatient waits for people with disabling, unstable, chronic conditions have soared. Mental health services are overwhelmed with little face-to-face contact. We continue to see people but the ‘guidance’ from up above makes us triage everyone, limit numbers in our waiting room, wear masks, wipe things down and this significantly slows our throughput. This is made worse by our having key staff frequently and suddenly absent due to requirement to isolate should their child, as children do, get a transient cough. Despite this, in our large practice, not a single one of us has been diagnosed with Covid, despite our likely contact in the earlier days of the pandemic. The evidence for these heightened hygiene measures are non-existent – we have never done it in high flu prevalence years, and it should be noted they are not preventing a continued ‘average’ stream of flu deaths at present, which by far exceed current deaths from Covid. Two metre separation is entirely arbitrary and I have read no compelling evidence regarding cloth masks, yet plenty, including from the British Medical Journal, to indicate they increase risk. My experience is that they constrain communication and invoke fear.

We are told Covid rates are rising in our part of the country. But I have not encountered anyone actually ‘unwell’ with Covid – the few dozen that we did encounter were in March/April when we had a small number of deaths in the very elderly or infirm. Since then, the crowded beaches and protests, the packed restaurants for ‘eat out to help out’, the pubs reopening – all ongoing for months while Covid rates were coming down, indicate none of these activities was unsafe. Yet now, as thousands of healthy young students have moved and mixed and got largely asymptomatic positive testing, we are suddenly told the UK is a dangerous place again and we suffer curtailment of our liberties barely better than if we were prisoners and the knock-on constraints in healthcare that are prolonging suffering and threatening lives. Everyone must wear grubby scraps of cloth on their face, re-used and stuffed in pockets/bags so that if someone was actually harbouring Covid, they would be more likely to spread it to handled objects/others.

Meanwhile, I hear from people who are struggling at work, jobs threatened, separated from their families including confused elderly relatives in care homes who are now forbidden that human contact from their loved ones that they need. Such people, if dying, may have brief contact at two metres with everyone wearing masks and forbidden to touch – this is simply inhumane. Isolation, loneliness, stress, unemployment, uncertainty on a protracted basis lead to poverty and protracted ill-health. National financial deficit from the billions haemorrhaged on Covid actions will compound this. 

As a patient myself, my partner and I are awaiting treatment. He was initially referred on a 2ww cancer pathway and awaiting surgery and I have symptoms similar to a sibling who died of cancer in their 40s. This week we received letters to say we have been deemed ‘non-urgent’ and may be waiting up to two years – in Matt Hancock’s NHS that is “always there for us”.

All of the above is my subjective experience. But there is now evidence:

– millions of cancer screens not done – the many asymptomatic but curable cancers detected every year through screening will now be missed until established and symptomatic and less curable.

– fewer GP referrals for suspected cancer – patients simply aren’t presenting with symptoms, they have been too successfully terrified.

– more people dying at home – patients with e.g. heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems, again too frightened to go to hospital.

– unemployment and poverty increasing.

– children missing out on their education and play.

– and all of us denied the activities we look forward to, to sustain us, e.g. parties, holidays, gatherings, friendship groups and anything that amounts to a normal life.

Matt Hancock may have been swayed by what the CMO and SAGE are telling him. But he and they have failed to share the evidence to justify their edicts. Far less have they explained why they reject the successful approach of other countries who have avoided harsh lockdowns, or the approach from the eminent international scientists and medical practitioners supporting the Great Barrington declaration. This is cowardly and non-accountable to us, the taxpayers who fund the NHS and pay their wages.

I will correct Matt Hancock’s quote: “This year… the NHS failed us, it cannot be relied upon for urgent or chronic care, and this catastrophic failure of care will go on for years.”

He should resign.

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