12 April 2020
Prof John Ashton CBE, Ex-President of UK Faculty of Public Health is extremely critical of the Johnson government’s management of the corona virus epidemic. He says that the idea of herd immunity was an absurd one and amounted to an unlikely theory being preferred to information that had come from overseas, including China, which had initially covered up but once the WHO had come in were forthcoming of their experience in managing the epidemic.
The current problems include lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), ventilators and even oxygen are because of the lack of recognising the seriousness of the problem and failure to order equipment and to prepare.
He urges more attention to cleaners and porters who are as important as doctors in nurses in the spread of virus in a hospital environment, but the class system, which lessens their importance, has meant that they have not had enough attention to their PPE and this will lead to spread.
The other aspect is Private Public Partnerships, which have seen the creeping privatisation of health in Britain. He makes the point that there are no longer Community Nurses to trace contacts of the corona virus in the community as private corporations only do what is in their contracts, and are only of peripheral use in a pandemic. He wants a fundamental re-think of the privatisation of health, and a real investigation of who made what decisions when, not merely the outcome of awards to people who were high in the hierarchy, however incompetent their decisions.
Many countries have had health systems inappropriately evolved to deal with an infectious disease pandemic. How well countries have done is measure of the flexibility and responsiveness of their political systems as well as their health systems. His view is the UK has not done well.
We all need to look at our governments in the light of how well they responded to this challenge. The danger is that initial dilatoriness will then be replaced by authoritarianism, imposed on people while they are frightened.