All information in this article was obtained through the Panorama episode broadcast on the BBC on the 27th April 2020 named: ‘Have the government failed the NHS?’. The Left Wing Society would highly recommend you give this eye opening episode a watch, as it uncovers the truth about the steps the government has, or has not taken to protect the NHS.
“Taken the right steps at the right time”. “Guided by scientific advice” “Protect our NHS and save lives”. I’m sure you are all too familiar with these quotes from the daily briefings. The people of the United Kingdom have put all their trust into this government, however shocking revelations have recently come to light about the extent of the danger NHS staff have found themselves in, and the efforts the government has taken to cover this up.
Almost 100 front line staff have sadly died so far from COVID-19, and those could have all been prevented. For over a decade, it has been said that that a pandemic is our ‘country’s greatest threat’, therefore a pandemic is not an unexpected event. The first question that needs to be asked, is why have we not been stockpiling for this scenario if the government has previously stated that it is our biggest threat? Instead, key workers have been put on the front line without government protection. Documents from inside the supply chain revealed that the government has been counting items that should not be counted at PPE, such as paper towels and surgical gloves. They have even gone to the degree of counting individual gloves to push the number higher. Hospitals are having to purchase gowns from third party suppliers, which should never be happening in any scenario. Libby Nolan, an NHS nurse who described what NHS staff are wearing stated that they were not provided gowns, and instead are wearing “simple aprons that you would serve food with”. Last year, advisors warned that gowns were needed, but none were purchased. Furthermore, images of homemade kit have been posted online, showing aprons made from bin bags and plastic bags being used as protective head gear. Staff are also being supplied out of date equipment that has also been attempted to be covered up. NHS staff have said they are “frightened for their lives”.
Professor John Ashton, a public health director also stated his view on this saying that there is “no excuse” and it’s “breath-taking no gowns have been stocked up”. He spoke about the consequence of the government’s failings, stating they ‘failed to appreciate the enormity of what was coming our way’. He described how when things began to escalate, they started to ‘spin the story to make out they have been following the science’. The government have stated that there has been “shortages of PPE across the world” – which simply is not the case. In a factory in Bolton who provide protected fabric for PPE equipment said that they were not approached by the government, and instead had to offer their services themselves – and did not hear a response for two weeks. Instead, in this time they were making orders for the United States who purchased the UK capacity. In the missing weeks, the factory could have provided enough for 300,000 gowns. However, the government has put the shortage down to ‘logistical problems’. One nurse described how we had the luxury of time, and how this situation should not be happening. “They keep saying unprecedented but it’s not unexpected”.
For a decade, we failed to get it right; but when COVID-19 first appeared we still had time. We should have been getting ready, and February was our month to prepare as these wear the crucial months. The government refusing to take any responsibility is a huge problem, and the attempt to cover these major issues up is problematic. The front-line staff have been ‘sent to battle without any resources to fight it’ and as one front line nurse stated: “calling us heroes just makes it okay when we die”. The government should have done more.