Government knew second wave of Covid was coming and defied scientific advice. Now NHS staff, patients and families are paying the price
Read the full text of our letter published in The Argus on 16th January 2021
Today’s Argus headlines make shocking reading, but it can’t be said that no one had seen it coming. For months over the summer, from the epidemiologists and other specialists to those working on the front line, the warnings about the need to prepare for the second wave, that they knew was coming, went unheeded by the government. And now we have a leading specialist at the Sussex County referring to the situation as ‘terrifyingly bad’. So bad that many staff are incapacitated with Covid, while many of those remaining are suffering from the traumatising effects of having to watch patients die, in their hundreds, despite all their best efforts to save them. This government will go down in the record books as being one of the most incompetent and incapable administration in living memory, only being rivalled by that of Neville Chamberlain, trumpeting ‘peace in our time’ shortly before the onset of the Second World War.
But the Johnson government is not merely incompetent, if that were not bad enough, but it is totally callous as well. In spite of spending nearly ten weeks being cared for by dedicated NHS staff, many of those weeks in intensive care, Johnson cannot bring himself to argue for a pay rise for those same staff, instead being content to, briefly, join the Thursday evening clap until such times as he could decently excuse himself from the inconvenience of standing on the doorstep, later declaring that he ‘doesn’t believe in gestures’.
And in the meantime, the covert restructuring of the NHS goes on apace, the most graphic example being the appointment, in August, in the midst of the pandemic, of Tory peer Dido Harding as the head of a new body set up to replace Public Health England, a move some have compared to re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. The analogy doesn’t stop there, as Harding has hit a few icebergs in her time, not least presiding over the national test-track-and-trace system that has cost an estimated £10 billion and been such a lamentable failure.
And we have a local example of such deckchair re-arranging, the proposed merger of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WSHNFT) with the Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust (BSUHT), the trust that runs the Sussex County and the Royal Alexandra in Haywards Heath. In the middle of a pandemic, with almost every ward in the County given over to looking after Covid patients, and people with life-threatening conditions having their scheduled operations postponed, the Western Sussex management is engaged in a full-blown takeover of BSUHT, ploughing ahead with submitting a Full Business Case to the bosses at NHS England and devoting enormous energy and resources that would be better deployed in focussing on how to beat this pandemic.
Already there have been some muted concerns raised about the creation of this super-trust, in the pages of the Argus as well as in other quarters, but no one has fully explored the implications of creating a health service body that is proposed to extend its remit from Chichester in the west to Haywards Heath in the north, with the possibility of some services in East Sussex being swept into the mix as well; Lewes Victoria Hospital in East Sussex is part of the BSUHT. If this was a merger of two banks, or two transport firms or construction companies, senior figures in the business world would be jumping up and down and calling for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to examine the implications with a fine toothcomb, but a multi-million-pound merger of several NHS trusts, affecting at least 1.2 million people, and nobody says a dickie bird?
At the very least there needs to be a public consultation, and an impact assessment, and it is those people who are elected to represent their constituents in all the affected areas, the local MPs and councillors, who should be raising the rafters with questions about the implications of the merger, and demanding answers, before this smash-and-grab raid by Western Sussex Hospitals trust goes any further. And one of the first questions that needs to be answered is, why should the staff in BSUHT have to undergo the worry and uncertainty of being transferred from one trust to another, a TUPE transfer, where all their employment terms and conditions are going to be changed, in the middle of a pandemic, and having that on their plate as well as all the other concerns referred to elsewhere in this letter.
Sussex Defend the NHS
Sussex Defend the NHS