As a doctor, I’m telling Boris Johnson – a Little Britain response to coronavirus will be deadly
We have long known that pandemics do not respect borders. If Johnson removes us from the EU’s disease response network, the consequences could be disastrous
In 1831, the first “Asiatic cholera” pandemic reached the UK via the port of Sunderland. Although the terrible nature of the disease was evident to local doctors, vested interests delayed the notification of authorities in London because of concern about negative effects on business. Of course, more people died, and the port was quarantined.
This cholera pandemic was probably the first time the international dimensions of managing a public health emergency became clear. With 90,000 coronavirus infections and 3,000 deaths worldwide, there is now a new spectre haunting the globe.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that coronavirus could slash global economic growth rates in half, as factories shut down and supply chains are broken apart. Meanwhile, the European Union has raised the risk of infection from moderate to high.
The UK appears woefully unprepared for coronavirus. The NHS is already in bad shape, with the worst ever A&E waiting times, over 95% bed occupancy, 100,000 staff vacancies and the prospect that a no-deal Brexit will majorly disrupt the supply of medicines. With the worst-case scenario suggesting up to 50 million infections and up to 250,000 deaths in the UK alone, there can be little doubt that both health and social care services will be severely challenged by even a modest intensification of the outbreak.
More worryingly still, it appears the UK government is allowing petty infighting to hamper its preparations for a pandemic. It is staggering to hear that, as the virus continues its rapid spread, Downing Street and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) are locked in a row about Brexit – specifically, the UK’s continued access to the EU Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) for communicable diseases. The DHSC, it is reported, wish to remain in the EWRS, the prime minister decidedly does not.
The EWRS was created by the European Commission to “ensure a rapid and effective response by the EU to events (including emergencies) related to communicable diseases.” In the web-based system – which links the European Commission, public health authorities and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – appointed contacts in member states receive real-time notifications of emerging communicable disease threats, and proposed measures to control them. This allows prompt and coordinated action to fight outbreaks of infectious disease.
A number of organisations have attempted to steer the government away from the disastrous course of leaving the EWRS. The Brexit Health Alliance (BHA), for example, brings medical researchers, patient groups and public health bodies to safeguard the health service during Brexit negotiations. It argues that it is in both Europe and the UK’s interests to cooperate in handling public health issues, and BHA lists the EWRS is as an important mechanism for doing so – not that the government seems to care.
The Faculty of Public Health (FPH) is another expert body whose advice is being ignored. The FPH praised then health secretary Jeremy Hunt for acknowledging that public health emergencies transcend global boundaries, and for committing to making health security central to our Brexit negotiating position. These are commitments over which the government is now riding roughshod, and for what appear to be political reasons.
Under Johnson, Britain appears to be adopting similar isolationism in its public health policy as in its foreign policy. Yet we have known since at least 1831 that pandemics do not respect borders. A “Little Britain” approach to coronavirus is not merely unwise – it is dangerous. Fighting Covid-19 requires us to work with our European neighbours – if we do not, we are putting lives at risk.
The government’s plans to fight coronavirus include recruiting retired doctors like me. Yet domestic skills can be no substitute for international collaboration. As a former consultant paediatrician, I am asking Number 10: for patients’ sake, do not take us out of the EWRS.
Dr John Puntis is co-chair of Keep Our NHS Publlic
1. Discussion re the new political landscape post election
John Puntis gave a short introduction based on these notes circulated beforehand :
NHS became a major issue (thanks to campaigners) in election – forced Johnson to make promises. Roy Lilley
came up with a list of these. They are already being broken! (https://lowdownnhs.info/news/after-the-
Queen’s speech enshrined promise of extra money in law – but this funding is inadequate. NHS Providers Chief
Exec Chris Hopson – if rate had gone up as before 2010, budget would now be £35m higher.
Government says giving “£34bn in cash terms” over 5 years – first year’s extra frontline £5.5bn and by 2023/24
extra £30.5bn – but NHS needs money now, and has lost out on underinvestment.
Note also that “£34bn in cash terms” if adjusted for inflation and cost pressures, the government’s own figures
show it will be worth only £20.5 bn in real terms.
Real budget for NHS in 2024 will be way below what is needed (increased population, more chronic illness, new
treatments) – Trusts now in debt of £14bn – BMA estimates £6.2bn short a year on top of existing deficits.
November 2019: 2.1 million A&E attendances – 5.2% increase from last year; 94.9% bed occupancy – waiting
list grown to 4.6 million – worst ever performance against 4 hour standard
Will continue to impact on mental health, GP and community services.
Social care – no solution; “cross party consensus”
6000 new GPs not included in legally binding proposals; promise of 5000 made in 2015 by Hunt and reiterated
5 times + overall reduction in 1000 WTE. 50k nurses (18k already working!)
Nursing bursary has not been restored – it is £5k annual maintenance grant – still have to pay £9k tuition fees
(nurse applications fell by 30% after abolition)
12.5% of NHA staff are foreign nationals; “new visa to ensure fast track entry” but massive fall in recruitment
from EU; £400 for visa plus £625/person immigration health charge annually
Scrap hospital car parking (less money for hospitals) – only “for those in greatest need” (abolished already in
Scotland and Wales)
“NHS Long term plan Bill” – no explanation how LTP can be implemented, but stripping away accountability
and bringing in Integrated Care Provider contracts with scope for major private involvement
“40 new hospitals” – only 6 will get beyond drawing board by 2024; 21 seed funding; 20 some money for
upgrades and maintenance, but 100 that have asked for capital project funds rejected
Nigel said that he thought that John Ashworth and Labour in general were very poor on the NHS during the
election. They focused on threats from America in the future which the Tories could dismiss and didn’t mention
WOS. The Tories pumped out a lot of lies. “We are in a context of misinformation “
Friday 17th 1.15 – 3.30 at Unison Regional office, Commerce House, Wade Lane, Leeds LS28NJ
There will be hot drinks and some sustenance available from 1pm.
Dear General Election Candidate,
HEALTH CARE: WHAT A BREXIT DEAL MUST INCLUDE
The British Medical Association has published a Briefing on what a Brexit deal must include to safeguard health care for people in the UK.
The Briefing calls for the following safeguards for patients and the NHS in any Brexit deal. Please let me know how once you are elected you will ensure that the government will implement each of these safeguards:
A Brexit deal must include:
Free movement for healthcare and medical research staff
Permanent residence for EU doctors and medical researchers currently in the UK
Continued rights for EEA medical students in the UK to live, train and work in UK health services
Continuation of the existing open border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
Ongoing cross-border co-operation in the delivery of healthcare to patients on both sides of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
Freedom of movement for healthcare workers to live and work on both sides of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
Ongoing MRPQ (Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications) to provide doctors the means to move and work between both Irish jurisdictions
Ongoing participation by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the regulatory framework for pan-European clinical trials
A formal agreement between the UK and European Medicines Agency to continue to support and participate in their assessments for medicine approvals
Mutual recognition of, and ongoing participation in, the CE scheme for medical devices
The retention, or comparable replacement, of reciprocal health care arrangements and access to healthcare for both UK and EU citizens
The maintenance of reciprocal arrangements, such as the MRPQ (Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications), to facilitate the ongoing exchange of medical expertise across Europe and ensure quick access to the UK healthcare system be appropriately trained EU doctors
Ongoing access to the IMI (Internal Market Information) alert system, which enables regulators across Europe to send and receive alerts about doctors’ fitness to practise across the EU
The retention of measures to protect public health standards, including those affecting food, alcohol, air quality, and tobacco regulations
An agreement between the UK and the EU to continue to share data and emergency preparedness planning in relation to cross-border threats
Ongoing access to EU research programmes and research funding
Immediate certainty for UK researchers who currently access Horizon 2020 funding about funding and collaboration on existing and future research projects
Continued access to the European Investment Bank to fund research programmes
Ongoing access to and participation in the European Reference Networks, enabling healthcare providers across Europe to tackle complex or rare medical conditions requiring highly specialised treatment
Abolition of the charge to migrants from outside the EEA to use the NHS.
I look forward to your reply.
Talk by Dr John Puntis
Please share. More details or press enquiries please get in touch
Leeds Hospital Alert have organised a public meeting on 17th October, 7.30pm at St. Margaret’s Parish Church ,Church Lane, Horsforth LS18 5LA
Everyone is concerned about the supply of medicines now and after 31st October. Please share the meeting details with everyone you know.
40 little white lies – hospitals are neither 40 nor new
KONP’s reply to the Boris Johnson election propaganda misinformation bandwagon
34 out of the ‘40 new hospitals’ announced by BorisJohnson in time for the Tory Party conference today, are in fact EXISTING hospitals which are being given only £100 million BETWEEN THEM for repairs. So Johnson and Health Minister Hancock are caught lying again. In fact there is a £6 billion deficit in new building, repairs and equipment. The NHS has only a SEVENTH of the funds necessary to bring the provision of scanners up to the EU average level!
The misleading promise of a ‘capital injection’ has to be set against the current £6bn deficit. Even then, the money is over 5-10 YEARS. Coming in two waves (ripples compared to what is needed), £2.7bn is said to rebuild six hospitals by 2025 NOT NEW hospitals; and £100m in ‘seed funding’ (you can say that again) over TEN YEARS to repair and refurbish the other 34 hospitals by 2030
Boris Johnson’s party has stripped the NHS of funding for nearly 10 years – by over 25% – there is now over £30 billion shortfall in annual funding.
That is why we are short of: 100k nurses, 10k hospital doctors, over 5k GP doctors and why 15k beds cut have waiting lists at 4.4 million. It is why mental health services are in crisis and broken equipment lies idle.
Forgive the total scepticism. This government has denuded the NHS of funding for nearly 10 years – by over 25% – over £30 billion shortfall in annual funding.
With no new revenue funding, hospitals will not have the funds to provide services. In addition, all capital funds to the NHS, incur 3.5% interest charges under the ‘public funding payback’ scheme, annually in perpetuity for capital builds. Trusts are already in debt to the Treasury to the tune of £14bn to stave off bankruptcy and have to pay interest charges on this too!
Compare these promises that may not materialise with the suggested £50bn needed for the NHS, according to NHS England chairman David Prior.
To add insult to injury, government and NHS England policy includes deals with private business to build properties the NHS will have to rent at ‘market prices’ when it already in debt. And we need to ask who will benefit, when so many Conservative MPs and peers have extensive personal interest in private health business.
We can’t trust this party of govt. We need a well-funded and public NHS
Dr Tony O’Sullivan co-chair Keep Our NHS Public
See critical response from NHS Providers Chris Hopson raising serious doubts while seeking to welcome any actual cash https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1178192919062351872.html
Daily Mirror https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnsons-40-new-hospitals-20327320
Other source: Health Service Journal