On my street, 8pm passed without a single pot, pan or firework disturbing the silence (in Spring, my street was particularly animated during the “Clap for Carers”), as demoralised NHS staff asked for basic provisions such as fairer pay and free parking.
“The clap” played a central role during the first lockdown, continuing for 10 weeks, as millions took to their doorsteps to show their appreciation for NHS staff and keyworkers. Enthusiasm for this gesture has now well and truly waned after a year of hardship, and sadly, there are many reports of NHS staff facing abuse and contempt, rather than appreciation.
The Twitter storm that replaced Thursday’s clap provided some much-needed encouragement that NHS staff are still very much supported by thousands. Campaigner and chef Jack Monroe led the way with the hashtag “thunderclapforcarers”, inviting followers to write to MPs en masse every Thursday to ensure essential workers are paid a liveable wage.
Intensive care registrar and president of the Doctors’ Association UK, Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, appealed for Twitter users to follow the hashtag “NHSblueheart” instead of clapping, in an effort to amplify the voices on the frontline, requesting that people press for concrete alternatives that will make a real-life difference to NHS Staff.
Britain’s official death toll from coronavirus hit nearly 80,000 on Friday and 1,325 daily deaths were recorded – the highest number since the pandemic began. London mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident across the capital, announcing: “One in 30 Londoners now has Covid. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”
So instead of clapping – these are the actions that will make a difference. Respect the lockdown and stay at home. Covid-19 thrives on human contact and the more complacent we become, the more the virus will spread to our loved ones. If you are young and fit and feel unconcerned, consider this – as hospital beds fill up with coronavirus patients, where will you be treated if you find yourself in a road traffic accident, or if your appendix bursts?
Be mindful of the main symptoms of the disease – cough, fever and loss of taste and smell – and isolate yourself and your household if you have any of these. Please don’t argue that your cough is not continuous enough to be coronavirus. If it is a new cough then you need a test. In reality, any “cold-like” symptoms could be Covid-19.
Countries like Australia have tested and isolated patients since March with sore throats and runny noses and have fared considerably better than we have in the UK. Speak out against the coronavirus deniers and those who would spit in the face of key workers striving to get the country through such a dark time – show them the voices from the frontline who are living through this inferno.
The Doctors’ Association UK advocates for a better NHS for everyone, instead of clapping it calls for adequate protection of the frontline. We urge supporters to ask MPs for an urgent review of the PPE provided, alongside a centralised plan to prioritise vaccination of NHS staff.
The UK has recorded some of the highest numbers of Covid-related healthcare worker deaths in the world, with higher rates among black, Asian and minority ethnic staff. Despite this, our PPE remains inadequate compared to our overseas colleagues. Provision of FFP3 masks to all healthcare workers in patient-facing roles is both achievable and lifesaving.
Finally, we call for indefinite leave to remain for NHS workers and their families. Around 170,000 healthcare staff working in England are migrants, who have risked their lives for this country during this pandemic – caring for patients irrespective of the colour of their passport. These workers have shown their commitment to the country and it is time the government recognises their contribution and allows them to call the UK home.
Dr Ellen Welch is a GP adviser with The Doctors’ Association UK
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