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GPs go forth

It is damning that this government makes progress only when it has no choice

Editor’s blog

Already, more than 20,000 patients who tested positive for Covid-19 have tragically already died in UK hospitals, which was the Government’s target to stay below. Among them are seven GPs. 

On a daily basis, the Government’s response has been compared with that of Germany, a country of broadly similar size and demographics. Deaths related to Covid-19 there stand at roughly 6,000 as of April 28.

In middle of April, headlines became markedly more negative for the Government. An excellent investigation in The Sunday Times revealed the Prime Minister had missed Cobra meetings, played down the scale of the crisis, exported PPE to China and failed to obtain the testing equipment needed. It illustrated this with a photograph of Boris Johnson playing with a Chinese dragon.

Mr Johnson’s admission that he shook hands with Covid-19 patients helped with the underplaying of the virus. I’m still wary of criticising the herd immunity strategy, as I feel the chaos and the imperfect data at the time meant any decision was fraught with problems. Even so, the decisions to give the go-ahead to the Cheltenham Festival, Stereophonics and Lewis Capaldi concerts, and the Liverpool v Atlético Madrid Champions League match looked a disgrace at the time, and history is likely to judge them harshly.

At this stage, the risks are too clear to be fobbed off with a jolly rendition of Happy Birthday

While we welcome his recovery, Mr Johnson – a charismatic populist – is probably the last person you’d want as a leader at a time like this, with the exception of Donald Trump, and his address this week did nothing to sway me from this opinion. What would we give now for a detail-obsessed technocrat? There are a number of factors behind the relative success of Germany, but Chancellor Angela Merkel, with her scientific background, would be welcome here right now.

There’s no doubt the decade-long decimation of budgets – including for pandemic planning – left the UK on the back foot. But at this stage there is no point looking back. There must be a truth and reconciliation process when this is over, with all involved speaking freely, but that is for then.

The fact is, since the lockdown began, the Government has really had no choice over any decision it has made. The moves to ramp up PPE production at home and work with factories abroad, the opening of the Nightingale hospitals, the increased testing, the huge sums put into developing a vaccine and the furlough scheme were all inescapable.

But this should provide a glimmer of light for GPs. While it is damning that this government works best when it has no choice, the priorities are now so obvious that we can expect it to be more effective. It has little option but to be transparent around lifting restrictions, or to prioritise healthcare workers’ safety. At this stage, the risks are too clear – and we are all too invested – to be fobbed off with a jolly rendition of Happy Birthday.

So should GPs fear for their health and lives? In our survey, 75% said they do, and I am in no position to disagree. But I do feel GPs and other healthcare staff are now being listened to, and the Government is doing all it can. But ministers’ earlier actions mean this might not be enough to redeem themselves or, tragically, to protect GPs, other NHS staff or patients.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at Pulse is running the ‘Pulse Education Fund’ to support our efforts during the pandemic. For more on this, click here

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Dr Merkel has a PhD in QUANTUM chemistry. Not many such leaders about. I am surprised she went into politics, with a poor mathematical probability of success, but hey who can gainsay she knows her numbers.

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  • Ohhhhh dear..... Here we go again......

    We're even closer in population size to Italy, why are you not comparing to them? And if smaller countries supposedly fair better, why not Belgium or Spain? And that's assuming some countries' figures are accurate, e.g. China - 4.6k deaths... really? Are you cherry picking to make a political point?

    You start off with a criticism of what we did not do/did wrongly, then you proceed to say there is 'no point looking back'... which is it?

    Then a jab at Boris/Trump... Really? You'd prefer Xi? Covering up the scale of the situation from the very beginning and STILL misrepresenting any figures that come out of China? Or Kim? Denying that N Korea had any cases until a defector tested positive? And is this the same Angela Merkel that initiated/exacerbated the migrant crisis? Her physics and chemistry degrees didn't help there did it? And are the leaders of Belgium/Spain/Italy any better/worse?

    Then you begrudgingly credited the govt with having 'no choice' over its decisions. Well, it could have chosen not to have lockdown at all like Sweden, it could have denied the problem at all like China/NKorea, persecuted its own whistleblowing citizens, or thrown out external journalists and have little/no transparency at all. Many countries are not looking at vaccine research or furloughing schemes (maybe for entirely reasonable practical reasons). We still have no travel restrictions (or screening)on inbound international flights... Are you saying we have no choice with regards to that? My point being, despite my scepticism (well-documented) of the state, we could be doing 'worse'. We are yet to experience the full 'hit' of this crisis and its effects of course. This issue, as with all societal level issues, is multi-variant, and no single measure is adequate.

    Then you propagate the fake idea that budgets have been 'decimating'... NHS and total govt spending have been increasing year on year...
    What you might mean is that demand is outpacing supply... And we know the reasons why fairly well. But remember, our debt is also increasing... So back to the fundamental questions - You happy for you and your descendants to pay more tax? And if I'm not, are you happy to force me to? Your answers may shed a light on which side of the political spectrum you swing.

    What your article does suggest, is an innate bias against some e.g. Trump being the 'worst' leader, and for some e.g. ignoring some worse states than ours. And a lack of depth when making assertions. For all our faults, there are some things we should still be grateful for.

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  • Blimey. Well said Jaimie. You're sticking your neck out a bit but there is absolutely no doubt that if we were being lead by anything other than a Tory Govt then the media would be eating them for breakfast.
    As an addition to your point about Merkel it is very interesting to note how well countries with female leaders are doing. They seem to be leading through a combination of genuine concern and consensus, rather than by using avoidance tactics and being combative and aggressive when cornered.
    Even pains me to say I know we would be doing a lot better if May was at the helm at the moment because at least she had some sort of appreciation for planning and detail.

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  • I wonder how much of the reading public actually believe your assertion that the mainstream media is pro-Tory, Angus. If so, then their ratings should be through the roof, going by election results, yet... well, I'll leave you to do the research yourself.

    Oh, it certainly doesn't seem like Merkel is floudering around like most are, regardless of gender... and it doesn't surprise me either that you are trying to make a point based on collectivist idealogy and identity politics.

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  • Yawn.

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