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The seeds of the past year were sown over the past decade

GP practices open

In this week of reflection, there is little point in reiterating the significance of the past year – you already know this more than anyone else. You’ve seen your patients dying, seen their mental health deteriorate, seen the effects of their being unable to access secondary care, and the rest.

You’ve also led the positivity of the past few months, spearheading the incredibly successful vaccination campaign – the fact that within a year of the first lockdown we have vaccinated half the adult population of the UK is nothing short of miraculous.

The Government seems to have reserved all its competence for the vaccination programme. But it It is no coincidence that things started to go right when the NHS – and, specifically, GPs – took over.

Yet we still stand at 126,000 deaths with Covid since the start of the pandemic. There’s no doubt that, whoever had been in Downing Street, there would have been thousands of deaths. The UK is far more densely populated than, say, New Zealand and nothing could have made us as successful at mitigating the effect as them.

There is also no doubt, however, that this Government’s mistakes have contributed to many of those deaths. Mistakes have been made at every turn, from allowing the Cheltenham Festival, Stereophonics concerts and the Liverpool v Atletico Madrid football match (at a time when Madrid was badly affected), to lockdown delays, the fiascos around PPE, shielding, Test and Trace, eat out to help out, getting commuters back to work and all the rest. Not to mention the PM’s personal contributions of skipping vital COBRA meetings, shaking hands with hospital patients and backing Dominic Cummings when he undermined public support for lockdown measures.

Yet, for me, even these mistakes weren’t the main culprits for the tragic loss of life. The true reasons can be seen in the years before 2020, with the decade of underfunding of public services, including general practice, of course. Because underfunding has consequences both at the time, and later on. Cuts to pandemic planning helped lead to the mistakes over the past year. A lack of investment in health services has seen the NHS come close to collapse every winter, let alone during the time of Covid. The dramatic defunding and neglect of social care has affected of our most vulnerable, who make up the vast majority of the 126,000 lives lost. And, going further, allowing economic inequality to widen has probably had the biggest effect on the health of the nation.

But I fear that these are lessons the Government will never learn.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at


Patrufini Duffy 26 March, 2021 2:44 pm

Beside the Government, we all historically know individuals that chose to cough and splutter in our faces, to prove quite a selfish and ignorant casual need for antibiotics, and cough linctus. Yes, those aggressive, demanding days after the Christmas party and hen-do. The days of bursting infectious Hubs of walk-in centres, where “urgent” UTIs, sore throats and warts would need to be fixed today, prior to the next immune assault. The reality, that so many of us avoid speaking about, is that like so many other Western countries, privelege could not even deal with adenovirus, herpes, rhinovirus or plain chickenpox. Let alone fathom multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea. Yes, the seed was sown…of uttter naivety and disregard of nature and the immune system, disregard for medical advice, indifference to self-care, disregard of social distancing – and prioritisation of the “individual” over public health. And so this will be the ultimate sad threat to us all surviving, and living. Hyper-individualism, not perhaps the Government alone.

Andrew Bamji 29 March, 2021 11:05 am

May I add to the list of mistakes?

1. That SAGE had no representation from appropriate clinicians or immunologists.
2. That the review of Covid deaths by coroners (Covid-19 is a notifiable disease) was ditched. 3. That postmortems to confirm death from Covid-19 were actively discouraged.

All of these have led to over-counting of deaths truly due to Covid-19.

4. That infection with SARS-Cov-2 is not Covid-19, which is an immunological consequence of infection
5. That severe disease may be due to a novel virus, but as it can be caused by already recognised conditions it is not a new disease, and so treatments for it should have been introduced without the need for trials, and much sooner
6. That government, and SAGE, have sought to block those who dissent from their interpretations, have refused to engage in a dialogue with informed clinicians (like me) and have allowed vilification campaigns against sceptics rather than scientific debate
7. That genetic causes of susceptibility differences have been studiously ignored

Currently accepted treatment for severe Covid-19 has been introduced – many months after I submitted a protocol that included steroids and tocilizumab. There remains no national guidance for the investigation of those with symptoms that would spot early deterioration.

The aim of many clinicians, or even retired clinicians, is to help and I find it arrogant that such offers are ignored.

terry sullivan 29 March, 2021 7:34 pm

bliar started this from 1997–slow march to tyranny has been planned for decades