Are you one of the herd?

Despite their repeated denials, it’s fairly obvious that the UK Government has been pursuing a strategy of herd immunity, but just not telling us.  Their announced actions, often unbelievable, have been designed to delay implementing another solution, not promoting one.  They don’t care that their excuses have been easily found out, because they were only put forward to waste time, to make herd immunity inevitable.  They can’t be embarrassed and, in any case, they have had another equally unbelievable excuse ready.  It’s a case of ‘if you don’t like this excuse, we have others’.

The World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a global emergency on 31st January, but several weeks passed before the UK Government paid much attention.  In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, the UK Government were quite open about the herd immunity idea. Who can forget Boris Johnson’s “let’s just take it on the chin” comment in one of his early press briefings?  The concept of herd immunity is, of course, one that underpins the use of vaccines.  The more people vaccinated, the fewer will catch the disease, so limiting the spread.  This, after all, was the technique responsible for the elimination of smallpox and the reduction in many other diseases.  What could go wrong?  Surely there’s no difference between a mass vaccination programme and deliberate mass exposure to a virulent disease.  Is there?

The more people catch the virus, the more will develop immunity to it and that will inevitably reduce the spread.  So went the plan.  Of course, there was another aspect to the plan that wasn’t so widely publicised.  As has now become much more obvious, those younger and fitter will likely be less seriously affected by catching the virus.  They’ll have milder symptoms or even none at all.  But those older and less fit and those disabled or suffering serious life limiting illnesses are going to be much more seriously affected if they catch the virus.  Their symptoms will be much more serious.  They could become very ill.  They may die.  But who can forget Dominic Cummings’ reported statement that “what does it matter if a few pensioners die”.

But is the UK Government really adopting a strategy which could cause the unnecessary deaths of thousands, even tens of thousands, of people?  Let’s look at the evidence.

Do not resuscitate letters are being given out to many of the elderly or disabled.  This was first revealed when a surgery in Wales sent out letters to many of their patients asking them to sign a do not resuscitate order.  The surgery was forced to apologise, but, subsequently, it was found that other surgeries and care homes were doing the same thing.  Is this just a practical response to the pandemic when medical resources are in short supply or is this an attempt to cull those in our communities who are no longer making enough of a contribution, those who are costing money that the UK  Government could spend better elsewhere, such as on tax cuts to those few rich folk who actually pay tax?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are steps that should be taken by the government of any country affected.  These can be summarised as identify, isolate, contact trace, or, as the Director General of the WHO put it, test, test, test.  The UK Government response was to say that this advice was aimed at poorer countries with less developed health services.  Richer countries with more developed health services didn’t need to test so aggressively.  As a result, in the early stages of the pandemic, little effort was made to introduce any form of mass testing, despite the proven success of such regimes in several Far East countries, particularly South Korea and China.  In fact, nothing much happened until people started to compare the UK’s pathetic efforts against Germany’s: hardly a poor country.  Are these the actions of a government concerned for its people?  Instead of testing, the UK Government have relied on people staying at home and, if they were out, on social distancing, staying at least 2 metres apart at all times.  Was this because they thought this was the best course of action, or was it just a ploy to place the blame for anything going wrong with the Government’s plans on the people and not the Government?

Of course, if you don’t test, you don’t need testing kits, so little effort was made by the UK government to acquire them until they were forced into it by the bad publicity they were getting. They had string of excuses, of course, lack of available supplies, lack of chemical reagents, all shown to be lies by the manufacturers, who inevitably told that the government had not even approached them about supplies. In fact, companies who contacted the UK Government directly were either stalled, or didn’t even get an answer.  Are these the actions of a government concerned for its people?

People who contracted coronavirus and became ill had to be admitted to hospital for treatment, the most serious being admitted to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  Here we see the effects of Tory government policy over the last 10 years, the deliberate underfunding of the Health Service since the Tories came to power in 2010, initially with a little help from their LibDem friends.  To see the full scale of the reduction, look at the chart below, particularly at the difference between the average annual spending increase for the latest decade, from 2010, versus the one before.  The last two decades are post devolution and are for NHS England only, but the Barnett formula ensures Scotland doesn’t escape.  As you can see, the per capita spending increase during the period of Tory government is only just above zero, compared with almost 6% in the previous decade of Labour government.

NHS funding

The result of this reduced funding is an NHS that has fewer reserves of both staff and equipment to cope with the additional requirements.  In terms of staff numbers, let’s look at vacancies in England, most badly affected by the Tory Government cuts. In 2010, the vacancy rate for consultants (doctors and dentists) was 3.5% and this rose to 9.0% in 2019.  In 2010, the vacancy rate for nurses was 2.5% and this rose to 12.3% in the 1st quarter of 2019, reducing slightly in the following two quarters (figures from NHS Digital).  In Scotland, the vacancy rate for consultants in 2010 was 2.9% rising to 7.8% in 2019.  In 2010, the vacancy rate for nurses was 0.8%, rising to 5.0% in 2019 (figures from ISD Scotland).  So the Scottish figures are better, though still showing a rising trend.  Thank goodness NHS Scotland has been better funded by the Scottish Government during this last decade, even though it’s not been completely shielded from the Tory cuts.

What has the UK Government done to overcome the NHS staffing issues?

Despite the large amounts of NHS money being spent on private health providers, little money is being spent on NHS staff.  Only 3 years ago, while Jeremy Hunt was Health Secretary, Tory MPs cheered when a pay rise for nurses (in NHS England) and other public sector workers was voted down.  Gives you an indication of the Tory party’s level of respect for NHS workers in the days BC (Before Coronavirus).  Nurse’s pay in Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government, has been consistently higher than England.

For many years, the NHS has depended on overseas workers to fill the gaps in their staffing.  More than 10% of the total workforce come from abroad, with an even larger proportion of doctors.  Given that, it is astonishing that the UK Government chose to separate the UK from the rest of Europe and introduce rules to significantly limit the numbers coming from abroad.  Why would any sane government do this?  Were they influenced by the largely racist British press, who for years had mounted a never-ending campaign of hate against any and all ‘foreigners’?  Were they influenced by the owners of the press, most of them living abroad (non-doms) and non-taxpayers, but big contributors to the Tory party?  Were they influenced by the fact that hedge funds could make money from the situation, hedge funds also being big Tory donors, and nothing beats money?  Or was it all three?  Was this the action of a government concerned for its people?

What has the UK Government done to overcome the NHS equipment shortages?

Funding, or the lack of it, over the last 10 years has also affected the equipment available to the NHS staff.  Coronavirus has highlighted, in particular, the the lack of ICU beds, the lack of ventilators and the lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).  In the days BC, these were considered optional extras by the UK Government.  Three years ago, the UK Government knocked back a proposal to acquire eye protection for frontline NHS staff on the grounds of cost.  It’s that Jeremy Hunt again!!!  His fingerprints are all over the underfunding.  If eye protection had been suggested for MPs to defend them from the frothing on the opposite benches, would cost have been such an issue?

However, with the onset of coronavirus, you would expect that the UK Government would at last see sense and made every effort to correct a situation which threatened to affect a large part of the UK population.  But you’d be wrong.

Take ventilators.   With all European countries affected, the EU organised a joint procurement exercise for ventilators.  Even though they were in the process of leaving the EU, the UK were invited to join.  After initially trying to pretend they didn’t get the email and not bothering to attend meetings, the UK Government finally declined the offer.  They said they could do better, allegedly.  Apparently, Brexit was more important than people’s lives.  Finally, after rejecting or even ignoring several offers from UK companies, the Government placed an order for 10,000 ventilators with Dyson, a company with no ventilators and no experience in their production.  However, Dyson did have one important advantage: they were major contributors to the Tory Party.  Hopefully, the ventilators work, pass the appropriate regulatory tests and arrive in time to help in the current crisis.  They are certainly needed as, recently, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary (no, he’s not related to Tony Hancock, despite many of his TV appearances being a bit funny) admitted that the target of 18,000 ventilators available by the peak of the infection will not be reached, despite the target being a significant reduction from the initial estimate of 30,000.

PPE has been another on-going problem for the UK Government.  Though the government have consistently told us that they have loads of PPE available and that distribution problems were the reason why they weren’t getting through to where they should be, though I’m not sure how difficult it is to hire a couple of vans or get a delivery company to do it for you.  At times, the government even seemed not to understand the level of protection required, surprising considering the number of medical advisers they employ.  The result of their failure to deliver enough of the correct PPE has been that many health workers, especially in hospitals, have been using inadequate protection, causing many to become infected by the patients they are treating.  This has meant that many doctors and nurses have had to stop work to let the infection run its course, but, more seriously, has caused many serious illnesses and even some deaths.  Especially sad has been the number of retired doctors and nurses who have put themselves at risk by returning to help out in the current emergency and have died after contracting coronavirus.

Is it surprising that the NHS have found it difficult to cope with the coronavirus pandemic?  Is there any doubt that UK Government inaction has greatly magnified these difficulties?  What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Are you one of the herd?

  1. UK government bought in seventeen and a half million tests – and now admit they don’t work!
    See Financial Times article at : http://archive.is/nZVnA

    This week it seems they’re going round in circles trying not to say anything that means anything.
    Why on earth has there been such a media campaign today (co-ordinated?) to get a fixed date for the end of lockdown?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Herd immunity. ? Ok as an abstract theory . But and it is a big but.,H.I.needs a large proportion of the population to be healthy enough to successfully come through the infection and be well afterwards.The numbers would be of the percentage order of around 70 %.The optimists would imagine this would be achievable.Sadly we do not have that figure or anywhere near it at and through any section of ages in the population.So.it is this simple.though stark fact that brought the Great British right wing to a screeching halt.Leaving us all with the half arsed so -called actions they were forced to enact.Left to their own master plan or mismash we would be in the same boat as the U.S.A…or much worse…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s no evidence that Covid-19 confers immunity on anyone who recovers after being infected. Many Coronaviruses don’t, like flu, common cold, both Coronaviruses. So herd immunity may not even exist. Possibly hundreds of thousands of lives lost for nothing.

      Like

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