Every Doctor Will See You Now, Mr Javid

Junior doctor demo for NHS
Photo of demonstration by junior doctors

Every Doctor lobbying group calls for joined-up action to save the NHS. Report by Kent Bylines

NHS doctors have given the new health secretary Sajid Javid a “medical” examination, diagnosed systemic ill-health in the NHS and come up with prescriptions for recovery.

The doctors’ lobby organisation EveryDoctor is calling for joined-up action on chronic under staffing, staff recruitment and retention, working conditions, mental health, pressure on GP services, fair pay, pensions, social care and reform of the General Medical Council.

Crisis in the NHS

The crisis in NHS funding has been aggravated by ten years of creeping privatisation under successive Conservative governments. This affects us all. And it’s doubtful that the government will be inclined to change its policies, whatever the cost to public health and the wellbeing of taxpayers.

Which is why EveryDoctor has taken a look at the wider healthcare system and examined what ails the NHS, in order to increase public awareness and put pressure on the government to do the right thing.

The group has stressed that everything in the NHS – from the purchase of syringes to hospitals themselves – is part of a chain of healthcare delivery. On top of the group’s list of urgent actions is to stop and reverse NHS privatisation.

Public Health, not Private Profit

Public health is best served when everyone’s kept healthy. Private health insurance is run for profit, not as a public service. When a country relies on the private healthcare model, this results in the vulnerable and poor being unable to access good healthcare. This then has a knock-on effect on society as a whole.

Will the government respond appropriately to the EveryDoctor?

It has a track record for opposing inquiries such as this, often postponing until it’s too late to learn the lessons effectively. It has already rejected calls for an immediate inquiry into its handling of the pandemic, for example, preferring to wait until the crisis is over rather than improve its approach while the pandemic is still gripping the country.

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The doctor will see you now, Mr Javid

As a backbencher for the last year, Mr Javid had time on his hands. Indeed, he’s had so much time that he’s been able to take on several very lucrative extra jobs for pocket money. He’s had enough time to digest the problems and understand that any health decision he takes has an impact right across health and social care.

It doesn’t take a genius to prioritise combating Covid. That’s what just about every country in the world does.

But rather than investing for recovery, the UK government is dodging questions on the use of Covid funds, unexplained contracts and missing personal protective equipment. 

Javid marked himself out as inflexible and stubborn the moment he insisted Covid restrictions would be relaxed on 19 July, irrespective of a recent daily 20,000 rise in cases. He no doubt got a few claps from the prime minister, who insists we’ll have to learn to live with the, virus, like with flu. But the inflexibility of this decision suggests an inability to understand the impact, not just on the economy, but on the entire NHS and social care sector.

Adequate PPE and an effective test and trace system still needed

With an airborne virus the importance of protecting people through social distancing, adequate ventilation and effective masks is essential. This is much harder indoors than outdoors, and is particularly the case in our hospitals, for staff and patients alike. Medical staff worry about the inadequacy of surgical masks to protect them and patients against the new covid variants. 

EveryDoctor’s chief executive, Dr Julia Patterson, says that FFP3 masks should be provided and she’s launched a petition to protect frontline workers.

EveryDoctor has also recommended action on England’s testing capacity. With case numbers steadily climbing again, rather than relying solely on the vaccination programme, the health secretary should be taking additional pre-emptive measures to protect the public from further lockdowns.

His action on test and trace – and particularly the advice and support to schools – should form a central part of this strategy. 

The convenient Covid cover

Why anyone should hesitate over changing their behaviour to suppress a deadly virus by adopting a flexible, rapid response to the risks is unclear.

The whiff of scandal pervades the government’s Ccovid response, from PPE procurement to dodgy contracts. These include Lord Bethell’s conversations with Abingdon Health that was given two Department of Health and Social Care contracts totalling £85m without any competition. He was another Conservative suspected of using Gmail for government business.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock’s indiscretions are a diversion from emerging evidence of over-priced or non-existent PPE, and government failure to heed scientific advice.

The warnings about building resilience in the NHS and taking preventive action before autumn seem to fall on deaf ears. The government seems bent on carrying on regardless, even in the face of other countries tightening restrictions on, or banning, UK travellers.

The government will not budge. If there is no public outcry, will it take silence as consent, and keep the cover Covid offers for carrying on regardless?