There follows a guest post by Dr. Elizabeth Evans, Director of U.K. Medical Freedom Alliance, who says it’s past time the NHS joined the rest of the country in a return to normality. You can support the UKMFA “NHS Back To Normal” campaign by adopting the “NHS drop the restrictions” logo as your profile photo on social media.
We are now well over two years into the Covid pandemic and heading into summer. At this point, the Government has long-since dropped all the Covid mandates and told the public that we must “learn to live with Covid”. Hospitality venues, bars and theatres are full of people socialising and enjoying themselves; face masks are now a far rarer sight in shops and on public transport; and there are more smiles and spontaneous hugs being seen in public.
Yet when you enter a healthcare facility you could be forgiven for thinking you had entered a time warp and were back in the bad old days of lockdown 2020. Even as you enter you are met with gallons of hand sanitiser, Perspex screens, masked staff and even security guards barring the way and interrogating would-be patients and their chaperones. Aggressive notices on doors, walls and even the floor instruct you as to where you are or are not allowed to be and what you must wear, do or not do. Sick and vulnerable people are being denied the support of a loved one in outpatient appointments and A&E, and visitors to inpatients are severely restricted or, in some cases, barred.
This creates a dehumanising and intimidating environment which provokes an instinctive and unpleasant fear response in many who experience it, which is not conducive to the delivery of the high-quality care that we expect from the NHS, instead often resulting in worse health outcomes. The failure to let go of these measures and allow a return to normal practice is perpetuating unnecessary and irrational fear which will prevent society from moving forward.
The U.K. Medical Freedom Alliance has launched a new campaign “NHS Back to Normal“, supporting a wider call from medical experts, politicians (including Sajid Javid) and other campaigners to drop the remaining Covid restrictions imposed on NHS staff, visitors and patients. Enough is enough – it is time for the NHS to come into line with the rest of society and end the draconian restrictions that are causing fear and harm to patients, staff and visitors, and return to normal practice. If not now, then when?
It is imperative that NHS Trusts must allow normal visiting without restrictions, in line with the Government guidelines issued to the NHS in March 2022. We appeal to NHS Trust CEOs, in our Open Letter, to remove all Covid-related restrictions on the visitation of hospitalised patients and the accompanying of outpatients and A&E attendees, which have led to countless patients being cruelly deprived of company and support from their family and friends during times of vulnerability and suffering. These policies are disproportionate, unethical and inhuman, and the legal right to be accompanied to medical appointments and to receive healthy visitors in hospital must be upheld at all times.
We are also calling for the immediate discontinuation of all face mask requirements in the NHS for staff, visitors and patients, so that the wearing of a mask is entirely an individual choice. The legal requirements for face masks have now been lifted throughout the U.K. Nevertheless, the NHS continues to require its staff, patients and visitors to cover their faces within their healthcare facilities. We have written Open Letters to NHS Chief Executives and GP Practice Managers to make face masks optional for all staff, patients and visitors, with immediate effect.
In our Open Letters we detail the lack of evidence of benefit and the wealth of evidence of harms resulting from the use of face masks. We urge the NHS to uphold the principle of evidence-based medicine in its policies and practices. We also remind the CEOs that NHS staff are required to uphold the core principles of the NHS Constitution, medical ethics and professional codes of practice, including the right to informed consent. Denying staff, patients and visitors the right to decline a medical intervention (a face mask) without coercion, penalty or restriction is in breach of these principles and codes.
We are also calling for a full return to face-to-face consultations in hospitals and primary care.
Covid testing of asymptomatic staff, patients and visitors is scientifically unjustifiable and is causing huge staff shortage issues, with asymptomatic (healthy) staff taking time off and adding to the much-reported staff shortages. To impose testing on a healthy person as a condition of visiting violates the principles of informed consent and medical ethics. This wasteful, polluting, harmful and pointless practice must stop now.
The nation has spent two years ‘saving the NHS’, at great cost to wider public health, the doctor-patient relationship and the practice of ethical medicine which requires us to “First do no Harm”. It is time for the NHS to save us and return to the principles of its Constitution which states:
The NHS belongs to the people. It is there to improve our health and wellbeing, supporting us to keep mentally and physically well, to get better when we are ill and, when we cannot fully recover, to stay as well as we can to the end of our lives…. It touches our lives at times of basic human need, when care and compassion are what matter most.