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The fight against Coronavirus

May 19 - 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Please join us for an international discussion on the response to the coronavirus crisis, with Health Campaigns Together and Keep Our NHS Public.

Natalie Mehra – Ontario health coalition
Adam Gaffney – Physicians for a National Health Programme USA
Baba Aye – Public Services International
John Lister – Health Campaigns Together and Keep Our NHS Public

Links to important new information

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  • Memorial of Health & Social Care Workers taken by COVID-19 Moving and interactive a digital tribute and memorial by Nursing Notes to the dedicated members of our health and social care family who gave their lives during the fight against Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19).
    NursingNotes is committed to planting a new tree in a protected forest for every single health and social care worker who loses their lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Protecting migrants from Covid-19 Campaigners unite behind letter from Liberty Medact and many others including Health Campaigns Together, to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to call for urgent changes to ensure the safety of migrants in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    “We call on the Home Secretary to:
    “ensure access to healthcare - this means immediately suspending all NHS charging and data sharing with immigration enforcement, and launching a public information campaign that makes clear that healthcare services are available and safe for all migrants to use
    “ensure all migrants have access to vital public services by suspending 'No Recourse To Public Funds' conditions
    “make assurances that no one will be penalised for missing appointments, reporting or court dates due to illness
    “make sure no one is made an 'overstayer' because of being self-isolated or unable to return to a country that is not safe to travel to, by extending or modifying visas
    “release everyone detained under immigration powers to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering the detention estate and causing avoidable harm
    “provide specialist support for those housed in shared Asylum Accommodation to enable safe access to medical services, testing, and where necessary, re-housing for particularly vulnerable people.”

  • Coronavirus: where we stand Statement from Keep Our NHS Public

  • We must demand the COVID-19 vaccine be free for everyone Oxfam petition: “The vaccine will become the currency of life and death. Nearly every person on the planet will need it to stay safe from the virus. Ensuring everyone has access is the only way to protect us all from another COVID-19 pandemic.
    “The greatest challenge is ensuring everyone on the planet gets the vaccine as quickly as possible and free of charge.
    “… We can demand a commitment from world leaders to guarantee NOW that the vaccine will be free and fairly distributed to everyone on the planet.
    “Tell world leaders that we cannot put a price on global immunity, sign the petition now.”

  • The UK’s public health response to covid-19 Shocking piece in the BMJ outlining the failures of the U.K.’s response to the Covid crisis. Some naming and shaming. No pay wall.

  • NHS hospitals accused of using crisis as excuse to deny women caesarean sections Independent May 18: "Multiple NHS trusts have told women preparing to give birth since March that requests for a caesarean section will not be granted due to the viral pandemic.
    "It has led to accusations from the charity Birthrights that the coronavirus outbreak is being used as an excuse to promote an ideology that more women should have a natural birth.
    "During the coronavirus crisis some women have been forced to give birth alone due to bans on partners attending hospital. Hospitals changed their policy after new visiting rules were released.
    "Maria Booker, from Birthrights, told The Independent: “We continue to be contacted by women being told they cannot have a maternal request caesarean and we are concerned that in some places coronavirus is being used as an excuse to dictate to women how they should give birth, which contravenes Nice [the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidance."

  • Why didn't the government protect us earlier from coronavirus? ITV's Robert Peston (May 18) belatedly shares his overview of the government failure so far: "I assumed, naively it turns out, that in government money would be no object and that behind the scenes all possible defences would be erected to protect us from this most savage of black swans.
    "But they weren't erected, or at least not until the virus had spread so far and so fast that only the most economically expensive of comprehensive national lockdowns was capable of holding its vicious advance in check.
    "And even after that unprecedented restriction on our freedoms, the prevalence of the virus has been permitted to become so great, there are still so many people infected, that restarting the economy is now that much more distant."

  • British army veteran faces £27,000 NHS hospital bill Shocking Guardian May 18 story of the brutal realities of the continued "hostile environment" policy being viciously imposed by NHS and home office bureacrats:
    "A Commonwealth-born veteran, who served for more than a decade in the British army including tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, has been told he must pay more than £27,000 for NHS hospital bills after an emergency operation to remove a brain tumour.
    "Hospital staff have classified Taitusi Ratucaucau, 49, as an overseas patient, and therefore ineligible for free NHS care. He joined the British army in 2001 and has been continuously in the UK since being discharged from the military in 2011, living here with his wife and three daughters, and paying tax and national insurance."

  • Thanks to NHS managers, I’ve now got two care homes infected with Covid-19 Angry, wide-ranging anonymous May 17 article in Sunday Times from care home owner furious at government and NHS handling of Covid-19 crisis:
    “The government has given £3.2bn to local authorities to help cope with Covid. We hear about it every day. But councils are holding on to it, because they’re so short of money. …
    “And we’re starting to see care homes fail because residents are dying and there are no new referrals. …
    “… we’re getting no new residents, and the implications are calamitous. The 3,500 care homes with fewer than 40 beds are the most vulnerable. A 30-bed home makes profits only on the last six or seven beds; if they’re not filled, it’s a ticking timebomb.”

  • Majority of doctors have ‘little to no confidence’ that NHS will cope in coming weeks, BMA survey finds Independent May 17 reports on a BMA survey of its members:
    "NHS England this week published a “road map” to support the resumption of routine treatments over the next six weeks.
    "But the BMA’s poll of 10,328 doctors, surveyed between 13 and 15 May, found 52 per cent of those in England were either not at all or not very confident that their department could manage patient demand if services went back to normal.
    "Confidence was at its lowest in community settings, such as care homes, where 69 per cent of doctors said they were not very or not at all confident they could cope with patient demand."

  • Boris Johnson's promised workplace safety inspections 'don't exist' i-news May 17: "In answer to a question on workplace safety measures from Labour MP Chi Onwurah following his Covid-19 strategy statement last Monday, Mr Johnson said: “We are going to insist that businesses across this country look after their workers and are Covid-secure and Covid-compliant.
    "The Health and Safety Executive will be enforcing that, and we will have spot inspections to make sure that businesses are keeping their employees safe.”
    "However, when asked by i about the spot inspection a spokeswoman for the HSE said: “In line with government guidance to cease all but essential work that cannot be done outside of the home, minimising contact between individuals, HSE has paused all proactive inspections at this time to reduce any risk posed to our own staff and to members of the public.”
    "Instead of spot inspections, the HSE is encouraging companies to self-police safety measures and workers can report concerns via the group’s website."
    "Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, slammed the ‘self-policing’ strategy and demanded the Government do more to protect workers as lockdown conditions ease.
    Ms O’Grady said: "Self-policing is just spin for no policing."

  • State may run private care homes Times report May 17: "On Wednesday, Holyrood is expected to pass emergency powers to allow care homes to be taken under public sector control if conditions are thought to pose a significant risk to life, health or wellbeing or if a provider is unable to deliver care.
    "Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservative leader, said private care home owners are increasingly nervous about criticising the Scottish government for fear their homes may be taken into public ownership, following pronouncements from figures in the SNP about private homes.
    "While Carlaw emphasised he has no sympathy with the operators of poorly run care homes, he said unnecessary anxiety was being caused for some businesses by SNP parliamentarians, whose constituencies include Skye."
    … "Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, welcomed the intervention at Home Farm but said she could not understand why action had not been taken in other homes, such as Castle View in West Dunbartonshire and Tranent care home in East Lothian, where significant numbers of residents have also died."
    Evidence of very different politics in Scotland where the Tories are in opposition can be seen in the response of Miles Briggs, the Scottish Tory shadow health secretary, who said "care for some of the most vulnerable was being delivered “on the cheap”, and demanded “more professionalisation of the service and better remuneration and support for staff”.

  • Anger as Priti Patel says NHS fees paid by foreign health staff must stay, just three weeks after announcing ‘review’ Independent May 16 on an outrageous government decision that will deter overseas recruits to jobs in health and social care: "Priti Patel has sparked anger by refusing to cut or axe the huge fees paid by foreign healthcare workers to help fund the NHS – just three weeks after promising to “review” the controversial charges.
    "The home secretary raised expectations when she hinted at concessions for migrants working in the NHS themselves, as she praised their “extraordinary contribution” during the Covid-19 crisis.
    "But The Independent has now learnt there will be no changes to what ministers consider the “important” principle that everyone coming to work in the UK contributes extra for the NHS.
    "It means the immigration health surcharge is still due to soar from £400 a year to £624 from this October – to be and extended to all EU citizens from next January, when Brexit is completed."

  • How 10 Years of Tory Policies Led to Coronavirus Calamity KONP co-chair Tony O'Sullivan's May 15 Tribune article summing up the past few months, arguing that a decade worth of Tory policies, from pro-market reforms of the NHS to austerity and the hostile environment, have undermined Britain's response to coronavirus – with fatal consequences.

  • NHS staff told not to join pay demonstrations as they ‘adversely affect public confidence’ HSJ (May 15) reports that, not content with gagging staff protesting at lack of adequate supplies of PPE, NHS staff in London have been warned by national regulators not to take part in public protests over pay:
    "NHS England and NHS Improvement’s London regional team sent an email to all five sustainability and transformation partnerships in the capital warning staff against protesting at the current time."

  • Abbott joins Roche in winning UK approval for virus antibody test Financial Times May 15 report: “American multinational Abbott Laboratories has joined Swiss pharma company Roche in getting a green light from Public health England. The company said it stood ready to ship “5m tests to the UK each month with immediate effect”, adding that it had already sent some to the NHS labs with which it was “working closely”.
    “Abbott’s lab-based test, which detects past infection with the virus, was endorsed by PHE on Thursday — hours after news emerged that its competitor Roche’s version had been evaluated successfully by the government agency
    “… Governments expect antibody tests to be a key tool for tracking the spread of the virus and helping to decide how to ease lockdowns.”

  • Coronavirus outbreaks reported in a third of care homes BBC May 15 report: “More than a third of care homes in England have now recorded a coronavirus outbreak, official figures reveal.
    “Public Health England data shows 5,546 care homes out of a total of 15,514 had confirmed or suspected outbreaks since early March and almost every district has now had an outbreak in at least one.
    “Age UK said the situation in care homes was "a scandal behind closed doors".
    “… More than 9,700 care home residents across the UK have died with Covid-19, according to the Office for National Statistics and its counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

  • Covid-19: Testing testing Hard-hitting, evidence based critique of government failures in BMJ May 14 Editorial comment on the lockdown:
    “Tragically, the UK government has squandered much of the precious eight weeks bought at such great social and economic cost.
    “The question now is whether it is willing to admit mistakes and do what’s really needed to suppress the virus.
    “It seems clear the UK locked down late and too gradually, that we lacked basic preparedness despite clear warnings of a likely future pandemic, and that our healthcare and public health systems were already reeling from lack of investment and the unnecessary disruptive reorganisations of the previous decade.
    “In the past frantic few weeks the NHS has responded magnificently, but it has survived only by discharging people back into the community and by stopping everything other than covid related care.
    “The resulting loss to health and life will become clear, as will the impact on staff who have shouldered the covid burden. Despite these exceptional efforts it is therefore wrong to say that the NHS has not been overwhelmed.”

  • Doctors 'told not to discuss PPE shortages' BBC’s Newsnight, which seems to be the one area of BBC News with consistently hard focus on facts rather than ministerial bluff, May 15 report:
    “Some NHS managers have tried to stop doctors speaking publicly about shortages of personal protective equipment, the BBC has been told. WhistleblowersUK said more than 100 healthcare workers had contacted them since the beginning of March, raising concerns about Covid-19 and PPE.
    “The Department of Health said no one should be prevented from speaking up.
    “But Newsnight has seen evidence of pressure being applied to doctors to not share concerns they have about PPE.
    “A newsletter sent out to staff at one trust suggested subjects for tweets, such as thanking staff for their hard work, paying tribute to retired NHS staff who had returned to the workforce and retweeting posts from the trust's account. It specified that staff were to avoid "commenting on political issues, such as PPE".
    “Another trust put up posters in hospital staff areas which told healthcare workers not to "make public appeals for equipment, donations or volunteers".”

  • Coronavirus: Only 8% of government target of 18,000 contact tracers appointed, minister admits Independent May 15 report: “The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said in April the government wanted to recruit 18,000 contact tracers by the middle of May, who would be in place for the roll out of the promised NHS tracing app.
    A shortage of contact tracers could slow the delivery of the smartphone app, which Mr Hancock also promised would be available by the middle of the month. …
    “Asked how many of the contact tracers have been appointed, [Northern Ireland secretary Brandon] Lewis told Sky News: "I don't think we've got to 18,000 just yet, I think there's about 15,000 applications, we're looking to as you say get up to 18,000."
    “Pushed again on how many of the 15,000 applicants have been appointed, he added: "As of this morning I'm not sure of exactly how many of the 15,000 have been hired, earlier in the week it was about 1,500, it would have gone up since then."

  • Hancock says 'key thing' is R number has not risen above 1 More important than the headline of this May 15 Sky News report is this has the famous Hancock lie on care homes:
    "Right from the start we've tried to throw a protective ring around our care homes. We set out our first advice in February... we've made sure care homes have the resources they need" says Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. "

  • Lessons from the COVID Emergency – 6: Unlike the public, non-EU doctors and nurses have to pay for NHS services Former advisor to Blair-era ministers Paul Corrigan in a May 15 blog arguing a moral case against Tories' vicious new charges:
    "During the recent election campaign the Conservative Party announced it was increasing this surcharge from £400 to £625 for all non-EU migrant workers. Their plan is to extend it to EU workers on Jan 1st 2021 – the date they have set for leaving the EU. The fee is payable for each member of the migrating family, so an individual, their partner and 2 children would have to pay the government £2500.
    "When this increase was announced both the RCN and the BMA rightly concentrated on the fact that nurses and doctors would have to pay. They called it pernicious.
    "After the election, when the new Government promised numbers of new nurses (many from abroad), it was pointed out that these charges would act as a strong disincentive for nurses and doctors to come and work in the NHS. Richard Murray, CEO of the Kings Fund, called it perverse to make people pay for a service they themselves are providing."

  • Nurses have already had a ‘very significant pay rise’, insists Hancock Nursing Notes May 15, responding to leaked documents showing ministers are discussing another possible public sector pay freeze, reports:
    "A recently leaked Treasury document proposed a two-year public sector pay freeze.
    The health secretary has today refused to guarantee a pay increase for frontline healthcare workers.
    "When questioned by a member of the public at today’s daily Downing Street press briefing, Matt Hancock refused to commit to increasing pay but instead promised staff a “fair reward”. Speaking live, Hancock admitted nursing was a “highly skilled profession and deserves decent pay” but quickly claimed that nurses had already received a “very significant” pay rise.
    "NHS staff in England recently received their final annual rise following a multi-year pay deal. The majority of nurses saw a pre-tax rise of just 7% over three years."

  • The UK’s public health response to covid-19: Too little, too late, too flawed Tough, no nonsense May 15 summary Editorial in BMJ on the government's failures in responding to the pandemic - with an excellent graphical comparative chronology:
    "How did a country with an international reputation for public health get it so wrong? The UK’s response to covid-19 is centrally coordinated through a series of scientific advisory groups led by Whitty and Vallance. Critical to this is the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which models the future epidemic and feeds into SAGE. SPI-M and SAGE are dominated by modellers and epidemiologists. None of the members were experts in developing and implementing a public health response, and other relevant groups such as communicable disease experts, women, and ethnic minorities are under-represented.
    "The Guardian revealed that several SAGE meetings had been attended by Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief political adviser, and Ben Warner, his adviser on data science. The involvement of two influential political advisers makes a mockery of SAGE’s claim to provide independent scientific advice to the government."

  • LGA OVERVIEW OF ISSUES Local Government Association (representing all local authorities) report dated May 15 notes continued crisis in provision of PPE:
    "Care providers and councils are still not able to access sufficient supplies of PPE. This
    continues to be a major concern and additional drops of PPE to LRF’s have not significantly addressed this issue. Care workers and other staff are not being provided with the protection they need to carry out their roles looking after vulnerable people. This is putting workers and vulnerable people at risk. This has become a major credibility issue for the government and needs to be addressed in a manner which restores confidence to the sector. "

  • A gross injustice is being done to universities, students and all our futures as the government abandons higher education to its fate Richard Murphy notes May 4: “The government announced overnight that it is not going to bail out the university sector as a result of the coronavirus.
    “Numerous thoughts follow.
    “First, this will lead to mass redundancies at universities, and most especially amongst academic staff, many of whom are on temporary contracts.
    “Second, this will scar the reputation of UK universities for a long time to come.
    “Third, the failure of the government to support research when Brexit is also causing untold damage to the sector as a result of the loss of European cooperation cannot be overstated: we will now be in the research wilderness.”
    He might have added that it is also a grim warning of what could be in store for other public services – including the NHS.

  • Coronavirus tracked: the latest figures as countries fight to contain the pandemic | Free to read Excellent explanation and graphs from the Financial Times May 14:
    “The human cost of coronavirus has continued to mount, with more than 4.3m cases confirmed globally and more than 292,700 people known to have died.
    “The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic and it has spread to more than 190 countries around the world.
    “This page provides an up-to-date visual narrative of the spread of Covid-19, so please check back regularly because we will be refreshing it with new graphics and features as the story evolves.”

  • The Beginning of the End of Boris Johnson? Double Down News video blog by public health expert John Ashton slams government record on Covid-19. “When Coronavirus was getting into its stride in UK, the Secretary State for Communities & Local Government wrote to all local authorities giving them details on how to organise street parties for VE Day”

  • Drivers tell of chaos at UK's privately run PPE stockpile Guradian investigation May 14: “The private firm contracted to run the government’s stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) was beset by “chaos” at its warehouse that may have resulted in delays in deploying vital supplies to healthcare workers, according to sources who have spoken to the Guardian and ITV News.
    “The allegations from delivery drivers and other well–placed sources raise questions about whether Movianto, the subsidiary of a US healthcare giant, was able to adequately manage and distribute the nation’s emergency stockpile of PPE for use in a pandemic.
    “The investigation by the Guardian and ITV News also established that in previous years Movianto temporarily stored the emergency pandemic equipment in a smoke-damaged warehouse that was found to contain asbestos.”

  • Care home residents paid ‘huge price’ for emptying of acute beds, says STP chair HSJ 14 May reports comments by former New Labour health secretary Patricia Hewitt:
    “Patricia Hewitt, the chair of Norfolk and Waveney STP, said hospitals had sped up discharges to social care settings in March due to instructions from national NHS leaders.
    “Speaking on a webinar on health and social care today, she said: “Emptying acute beds, which was essential…came at a high price and it was paid by those patients in social care or transferred to social care who already had covid-19 or [subsequently] got it.
    “Nobody can remember a time when acute beds were as empty [as currently]…it is quite an extraordinary situation. But it was at a huge price paid, there will be all kinds of questions to come… once we are past the crisis phase.”
    “When discussing the initial public health messages sent out by the government, Ms Hewitt added: “Where was social care? It was obviously not in that first message.”

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