Exclusive: 80 health professionals – including doctors, nurses, professors and the editors of Britain’s leading medical journals – write of being concerned about the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and ask the public to #ChantforPPE.
Much has been said in the press about the lack of preparedness, the mistakes and the missed opportunities in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. It is right that in the fullness of time, the government’s actions and inactions should be scrutinised in detail.
While we are in the midst of a pandemic that threatens the lives of millions of British people, the priority of government must be to protect those lives. As healthcare workers, we know that the government must drastically improve the way it responds to the coronavirus pandemic.
We demand the following actions be taken:
1. Ensure availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) to NHS frontline workers, carers and care home staff.
2. Lead an urgent and comprehensive programme of testing, contact tracing and isolation in every community in Britain, to limit virus spread.
3. Recognise the importance of low-paid frontline workers in the control of Covid-19, through improving pay and working conditions.
4. An immediate end to legislation enforcing eligibility checks and charging in the NHS, including those related to residency status or national origin, allowing all patients to use the NHS without fear.
5. The government abide by the principle of candour, applied to healthcare workers, for management of this crisis.
The government must act with competence and urgency to secure the procurement and distribution of PPE to NHS and social care staff.
In a pandemic, the protection of health workers’ lives is paramount. Without the people who cure, care, cook and clean in our hospitals, efforts to confront this pandemic will fail. Many NHS trusts have told staff that PPE is in short supply and are having to make contingency plans to conserve stock.
The government is in denial about the scale of this crisis. Reports have come to light that British textiles companies are keen to produce PPE but are being ignored by the government. Meanwhile, ministers have refused to work with the EU to secure PPE.
Over 100 colleagues have died as a result of contracting Covid-19. We are low on morale, low on equipment, and low on staff. The government must act to secure the correct PPE for frontline staff.
The Government needs to lead a comprehensive programme of testing, case finding and isolation in every community in Britain.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, likened treating a pandemic without testing to fighting a fire with a blindfold. Countries such as South Korea and Germany have enthusiastically adopted the WHO strategy “Test, Test, Test”, and experienced a significantly lower number of adverse outcomes when compared with the UK.
Testing alone is not enough. We need a comprehensive contact tracing system and focused isolation to limit transmission as we come out of the full lockdown.
The pay and working conditions of frontline health workers must be improved to reflect the vital work that we do.
We must secure both the lives and the livelihoods of our frontline staff. Too many of our colleagues receive low pay. Hospital cleaning, portering and catering services are invariably outsourced to companies that hire workers on zero-hours contracts.
It is unacceptable that people who work hard as nurses, cleaners, porters, caterers and healthcare assistants – and who are rightly applauded every week as heroes – must face the daily worries of paying rent, bills and putting food on the table. Workers deserve proper pay and working conditions including job security, sick pay, pension, and death-in-service payments for family.
The NHS must be open to all in this time of crisis.
The global coronavirus outbreak shows us we are connected to – and dependent on – each other. Ultimately we are all human. However, some in the UK still do not have access to healthcare without being charged, and many more feel fearful of visiting a GP or hospital because of valid fears of deportation. We demand that the government send out a public message: the NHS is open for everyone. We must not let fear prevent people from seeking the care they and their community urgently need.
The government should learn from our duty of candour and be honest with us about the mistakes that have been made.
As clinicians, we have a duty of candour to our patients: if mistakes happen we must be honest about them, especially if they have caused harm.
We’d expect the same of our politicians and other senior government officials. This is not only about decency and respect. Being truthful and acknowledging shortcomings is an important first step in addressing a problem. We accept that the national response will never be perfect given the scale of this crisis: we ask of our politicians honesty, self reflection, and an approach that is open to new ideas and willing to adapt.
Eben Jones, ICU clinical fellow
Eiméar McDermott, clinical research nurse
Robert Varro, research nurse
Sophie Williams, junior doctor
Leigh McCulloch, district nurse
Hazel Fofie, paediatric registrar
Jada Samuel, staff nurse
Florence Saddler, doctor
Silas Webb, ICU clinical fellow
Rebecca Jones, junior doctor
T. Moshiri, doctor
Paola Cinardo, GIM specialist registrar
Kristel Timcang, nurse
Bethany Atkins, SHO (acute medicine)
Alex Armitage, paediatric registrar
Kamla Pillay, doctor
Anna Merla, doctor
John Puntis, consultant paediatrician
Maya Solway, staff nurse
Rachel Ambrose, mental health nurse, CAMHS inpatient
Rita Issa, GP registrar
Philippe Mayaud, Professor of Infectious Diseases & Reproductive Health, LSHTM
Rachel Cottam, GP
Maria Gilroy, registered nurse
Crystal D’Cruz, GP registrar
Jessica Edney, tutor
Maana Lindqvist, postgraduate student, LSHTM
Finola ONeill, GP
Benedicte Rosier, midwife
Mike Tomson, retired GP
Tom Sissons, doctor
Emily Adams, GP registrar
Stacia,Borenstein, clinical psychologist
Raisa Ahmed, SHO
Sarah Gentry, public health registrar
Jacob Krzanowski, SpR psychiatry SLaM
Isla Young, trainee GP
Susan Chadwick, therapeutic radiographer
Louise Irvine, general practitioner
Coral Jones, GP
Nadia Audhali, SpR paediatrics
Lynne Jones OBE, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist
Rumbi Anne Gumbie, nurse
Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, the BMJ
Angela Wilson, GP
Pedro Vila de Mucha, SHO
Kiran Kazmi, GPST2
Hasan Husein, doctor
Miriam Orcutt, senior research fellow, UCL Institute for Global Health
Miriam Beeks, GP
Rachel Piper, movement builder, Medact
Roghieh Dehghan, GP
Lisa Murphy, public health & technology specialist
Alice Holmes, GP
Anthony Costello, professor of global health, UCL
Neil Calderwood, junior doctor
Emily Meyer, medical doctor
Sue Skinner, practice manager
Anna Jones, public health doctor
Marie-Laure Morelli, GP
Yasaman Barzin, A&E doctor
Alice Blewitt, junior doctor
Deepa Shah, GP
Ben Eder, junior doctor
Dale Kirkwood, ICU doctor (emergency medicine trainee)
Aisha Shah, doctor
Rahma Abdi, doctor
Ruth Arnold, GP
Rebecca Marcus, consultant physician
John Davison, consultant geriatrician
Sarah Boutros, paediatric registrar
Tosin Idowu, GP
Rachel Taylor, ed trainee
Jessica Spedding, consultant emergency medicine
Shamilah Rahman, doctor
Shamaila Zaman, medical registrar
Joan Pons laplana, senior digital charge nurse
Richard Horton, editor, The Lancet
Mike Allen, doctor
Holly Ashley, senior staff nurse
Shirey Hodgson, professor, cancer genetics
Timesh Pillay, respiratory trainee