Tuesday, 12 October 2021

The COVID Cockup Committee Report - All Predictable

The findings of the parliamentary committee, looking into the multitude of cock-ups made in response to COVID were all predictable, as are the responses to it.

Notable is the criticism of the social care system, but the problems in social care actually were mainly adjuncts of problems that arose in the NHS.  Yet, all along the mantra was that we had to "protect the NHS", which is odd, because most of thought that it was the NHS which was supposed to protect us!  And, this fetish of the NHS and requirement to "protect it" is seen n the report, as the MP's, no doubt afraid to make any criticism of it, treat it with kid gloves, compared to the criticism of social care, and the care home sector.

The reality is that far from "protecting the NHS", it is there to protect us, and it failed entirely in that duty of care.   Indeed, not only did it fail to protect us, but it seriously endangered us by its criminally negligent behaviour.  As with the previous crises of MRSA, and C-Dif, which were almost entirely restricted to NHS hospitals and absent from private hospitals, or as with the cases of organ harvesting, of baby deaths, and the mistreatment of elderly patients, and the Stafford Hospital scandal, the NHS signally failed to institute even the most basic, common sense measures to prevent the spread of COVID, such as the establishment of isolation hospitals, wings or wards.  In previous decades such measures would have been an immediate response.

Instead, the NHS spent tens of millions setting up the Nightingale Hospitals some of which never had a single patient cross their doors, and nearly all only catered for a dozen or so patients at a time.  The Nightingale hospital set up with great media fanfare at the Excel Centre in London, which we were told could cater for 5,000, in fact, only treated a total of 56 people in its entire, costly existence.  Yet, in failing to undertake even these basic, common sense measures, the NHS became the single greatest vector for the spread of COVID.  More than 25% of those it treated for COVID, were people who it had infected after they came into its clutches for other treatments.  No wonder thousands of seriously ill people decided to stay away from it, putting their lives at risk, in the longer term, rather than risk serious illness or death in the short-term from NHS supplied COVID infection.

And, things were no better when it came to the NHS's duty of care to its own workers.  There was a chronic failure to provide adequate PPE, or contact protocols, despite the fact that it was known that with COVID, as for other viruses, a factor involved in whether a person's immune system is overwhelmed is "viral load", in other words, the amount of virus you are exposed to in a short period of time.  People with good immune systems can remain mostly unaffected from many viruses, or bacteria, provided the individual is not exposed to a large quantity of them in a short period.  The immune system, has time to respond to the infection, produce the required antibodies and so on, to prevent the virus from multiplying.

But, NHS workers were exposed to significant numbers of people with COVID all day, every day, so that, without adequate PPE or contact protocols, their bodies were being flooded with large amounts of virus, before their immune system could have time to respond, meaning that the virus then was able to multiply rapidly within their body, leading to illness, and the immune system being overwhelmed.  What makes that worse, is that NHS workers are often not the healthiest people in the world themselves.  Many are overweight, and as a result of the job, suffer with stress, tiredness and so on, all of which act to diminish the immune system response.  On top of that, with large numbers of NHS workers having gone back to their homes in Europe, following Brexit, staff shortages worsened, putting additional burdens on the remaining workers.  Then, in an act of further criminal negligence, the NHS responded to these shortages by asking retired workers to come back to work!  Yet, it was known from the start that it is those over 60, who form the main cohort of the population actually at risk from COVID!

Had the government focused on ensuring that those over 60 were able to self-isolate from the start, then most of the serious illness from COVID would have been avoided, and with it, the pressure on the NHS.  A study of the behaviour of individuals during the pandemic would demonstrate that.  As I have described in previous posts, from March 2020 that is what me and my family did, and, thereby avoided any potential for contacting the virus.  At the weekend, my wife came into contact with another retired couple who used to live in the village where we lived until a couple of years ago, and they had done the same.  We have been able to do that, and it has previously been stated that what lockdown actually amounted to was middle class people locking themselves down, whilst working-class people continued to work, and bring stuff to their doors.  For those able to do that, it was an eminently sensible course of action, until such time as vaccines became available.  But, the government should have ensured that everyone in that 20% of the population actually at serious risk, i.e. the over 60's, and those with compromised immune systems, were able to do that, and not just the middle class.

Indeed, many of those middle class people, not in the at risk 20%, had no need to be locked away in their homes, either, as with the large proportion of working-class people, who, despite all of the lockdown rhetoric continued to go to work, pretty much as normal.  In that way, the damage to the economy would have been avoided, and resources could have been focused where they were needed, in ensuring that the 20% could isolate effectively, that the NHS was provided with adequate PPE, and so on, and that care homes were given proper support.

Instead, lock downs failed to deal with the real problem, and the 20% of the population at serious risk, whether they were the very old and sick in care homes and hospitals, or those reliant on health and social care in their own homes, were left to be exposed to the virus.  Some of those over 60, who were still at work, were left to be exposed to it, on their daily journeys to work on public transport, and from their fellow workers in factories, shops and offices across the country, whereas a sensible programme of focused protection would have ensured such workers could have stayed at home, and provided with financial and other support, support which would have been far easier to provide had the economy itself not been ruined as a result of a quixotic attempt to lock it down.

And, having then created conditions in which those within that 20% were then exposed to the virus, that created conditions in which they ended up also in hospitals, particularly in specific parts of the country.  A look at the data shows that 95% of those dying from COVID have been in that group aged over 60, the largest proportion of them being people over 80.  And, those proportions are replicated when it comes to serious illness and hospitalisation.

Yet, the NHS, then also failed miserably, and not only failed, but was the biggest factor in ensuring the further spread of the virus, and deaths from it.  It sent large numbers of people with COVID, out of hospital, back to care homes, and with the lack of adequate provisions in those care homes, thereby, made it inevitable that thousands of people in those homes, who should have been the first, and easiest cohort of people to isolate and protect, were going to die.

And, the responses to the report have been predictable too.  Of course, the Report is interpreted by the media, who all along saw a cornucopia in the story, from pressing for the most extreme measures, and painting the situation in the most extravagant terms - such as the stories about there going to need to be mass burials and cremations and so on - and who pressed for the most extreme lock downs, as confirming that if only lockdowns had happened earlier and harder, things would have been different.  Labour, which has only differed from the Tories in waiting to see what they proposed, and then argued for more of it, has also taken that approach.  But, there is no evidence from across the globe that sooner, harder lockdowns would have had any significant beneficial effect.  Quite the contrary.

The Tories, of course, refuse to apologise for that cock-up, just as they fail to apologise for the cock-up they have caused with Brexit, which is doing even more, and longer lasting damage to the economy and the social fabric.  All in all, nothing that could not have been predicted, and yet, further evidence that, as workers, we should place no faith in the state, or in "business" providing us with solutions to our problems, or even not creating such problems for us in the first place.  It demonstrates why workers should begin taking back control of their own lives, by their own collective action.

No comments: