Why Does Your Doctor Want to Keep You Masked?

There follows a guest post by Paul Stevens, who is part of the Smile Free campaign to end forced masking in the U.K., which is currently inviting signatures to its open letter to the NHS Chief Executives to remove the mask requirement from healthcare settings.

Walk into your General Practitioner surgery and what will you see? Notices demanding that you ‘wear a mask’ and people with ill-fitting face coverings, most of which having been frequently touched, reused, rarely washed and improperly stored.

By contrast, in public spaces such as hospitality venues, retail settings and transportation hubs, you’ll find a lack of signage and a marked reduction in mask-wearing. More and more, people aren’t wearing them.

It’s as if we are living in two worlds: one where we have begun to return to a rational unmasked normality; and one, in healthcare settings including GP surgeries, where we are instructed to remain featureless and compliant with the facemask diktats of nameless NHS bureaucrats.

To understand how, and why, these worlds co-exist we need to start by looking at the frame of reference within which GPs operate. As independent contractors, for all intents and purposes GPs work within the NHS; and many are members of a single body, the British Medical Association (BMA). The NHS and BMA, one guiding and enabling the other, have played major parts in establishing and maintaining masking within healthcare settings.

The NHS has been a major advocate of masking and, as published on the Government’s “COVID-19: Infection prevention and control” (IPC) webpages, its current guidance for mask-wearing within health and care settings remains that facemasks for staff and facemasks or coverings for all patients and visitors are “recommended”.

Patient Satisfaction With Doctors Hits Record Low as Face-to-Face Consultations Become the Exception

Public satisfaction with family doctors in Scotland has plummeted to a record low since the first lockdown when they began to refuse to see patients in person, a study has found. The Telegraph has the story.

The Scottish Government-backed survey of 130,000 patients revealed that 67% said they had a positive experience of care provided by their GP practice, a fall of 12 percentage points in two years and 23 points compared with a decade ago.

Meanwhile, a quarter of people said they had not found it easy to contact their practice, a rise of 10 percentage points compared with before the pandemic.

Guidance was issued to GP practices not to see patients unless essential for clinical reasons at the start of lockdown in 2020, in an effort to prevent COVID-19 spreading.

However, while all legal restrictions have now been lifted, many doctors have not returned to normal and the SNP’s health secretary recently admitted that a “hybrid” model of appointments has become permanent.

The latest survey, which began in November 2021 and asked about experiences over the previous year, found that 57% of patients had a telephone consultation, whereas the figure was 11% before coronavirus.

Just 37% had a face-to-face consultation compared with 87% two years previously.

The shift away from in-person appointments has led to concerns that patients may be reluctant to seek help as they fear being interrogated about health conditions by receptionists, that the system is inaccessible to those with poor English and that signs a GP may have picked up on in-person will be missed.

Doctors, like many workers especially in the public sector, seem determined to keep the new, more convenient patterns of working they discovered during lockdown. But in many cases these patterns are just not as good for getting the job done and doing it well. When it comes to medicine, that can be the difference between life and death.

Worth reading in full.

NHS Vaccine Mandate “To Be Delayed”

The NHS vaccine mandate is likely to be “kicked down the road”, a Whitehall source has told the Telegraph, amid demands by Conservative MPs for it to be scrapped entirely. The Telegraph has the story.

Compulsory Covid vaccines for NHS workers would be delayed for six months, under eleventh-hour plans being considered by Boris Johnson to help quell a seismic revolt among Tory MPs.

On Saturday night, just two weeks before the NHS is due to begin sacking staff who have not had a jab, a Whitehall source said that the requirement is likely to be “kicked down the road”, amid demands by Conservative backbenchers for it to be dropped entirely. …

All frontline NHS staff are required to have had two jabs by April 1st, but more than 80,000 – 6% of the workforce – remain unvaccinated.

The plan being considered at senior levels of Government is to overhaul the requirement so that staff would, in theory, be required to have their booster too. The deadline would also be delayed by six months, ostensibly to give workers time to get their third jab. Such a delay is likely to reassure some MPs opposed to the move that it will ultimately not transpire.

It was starting to feel inevitable, but it’s good to see signals appearing. Now we just need to see it permanently scrapped, and the care home mandate removed as well.

Worth reading in full.

Royal College of GPs Calls For Cancellation of NHS Vaccine Mandate as Thousands March in Protest

The NHS vaccine mandate should be cancelled to prevent staff shortages, the Royal College of GPs has said, as thousands took to the streets across England to protest against the policy. The BBC has more.

NHS staff must have a first jab by February 3rd and be fully vaccinated by April 1st to continue in frontline roles.

The Department of Health said there were no plans to delay and it was “the right thing to do to protect patients”.

NHS workers who oppose the Government’s mandatory vaccination policy have staged a protest in central London.

Demonstrations were also held in other cities across England including Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. …

Martin Marshall, Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said compulsory vaccination for health professionals in England was “not the right way forward”.

He said the vast majority of staff were vaccinated but some 70,000 to 80,000 were not and they accounted for 10% of staff at some hospital or GP surgeries.

Some 94.3% of NHS trust health care workers in England have had a first dose of vaccine and 91.5% have had a second dose, figures to December 31st show.

If unvaccinated staff were taken out of frontline roles by April 1st there would be “massive consequences” for the NHS, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said a delay would allow time for booster jabs and a “sensible conversation” about whether vaccines should be mandatory at all.

Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said some frontline staff would have to leave their roles if they choose not to be vaccinated.

He said: “This will reduce frontline NHS staff numbers even further and lead to more gaps in capacity at a time of intense pressure and patient demand.”

In London, demonstrators marched from Regents Park to the BBC headquarters in Portland Place in a peaceful protest against mandating vaccines for health workers.

But Dr. Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England, said health care professionals had “a duty” to make sure they were protected.

She said: “If you’re marching today, just take a moment, think about the people that you’ve been looking after who have experienced Covid, think about your colleagues who you’ve been working with, and think about the best way to make sure that we’re all protected, and that we’re all as safe as possible, because we are very much in this together and it’s down to us to look after each other too.”

Meanwhile, Kate, a nurse in Hampshire, told the Today programme she was prepared to lose her job rather than have a coronavirus vaccine against her will.

“I don’t feel like the vaccination needs to be mandated because we are medical professionals and we have enough information to make that decision for ourselves,” she said.

“When I had Covid I was ill but not particularly unwell and when it comes to me being forced to do something or lose my job, I just can’t understand how they think that’s a sensible position. I’m good at my job, I care about people, and I certainly have never and would never put people at risk.”

Pressure growing on the Government to U-turn on this, which can’t come too soon. With the evidence that Omicron both evades the vaccines and is mild, what justification there might have been has now clearly evaporated. Perhaps the Government is leaving the U-turn to the last moment in order to maximise the pressure on unvaccinated staff to accept the jab. Which is of course cruel, but then so is the policy so we can hardly expect them to care about that.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: talkRADIO has tweeted about the protests taking place today in London and across the country: “Thousands of people have gathered in central London to protest against the mandatory vaccine mandate that could see more than 70,000 NHS workers lose their jobs.

At the Tip I Found a Public Sector Still Living in Lockdown and in No Rush to Change

I finally went to the tip on Sunday to clear out the junk and defunct household items that had been accumulating since March 2020. I’d been putting it off because since the first lockdown the local tip had introduced an inconvenient booking system and all manner of the usual ‘Covid safe’ nonsense. Bear in mind that this is a facility that exists entirely outdoors and so where the risk of transmission is minimal.

I was waiting for the restrictions to be lifted so that I could just turn up, in the handy, old-fashioned way, and not be harassed by the tiresome ‘safetyist’ propaganda. This had taken considerably longer than I had anticipated, however, and now ‘Freedom Day’ had come and gone, and still the booking system remained stubbornly in place. The rest of the country may have lifted restrictions, but not the tip.

So when the microwave gave up in quick succession to the coffee machine and I faced the prospect of a garden filling up with broken small electrical appliances, I finally admitted defeat and booked myself in for a slot. It was, as predicted, irritatingly inconvenient, as having made the arrangement for three o’clock on the Sunday I now felt bound by it and had to arrange my day around it. The fact that the weather turned out unexpectedly summery and we ended up at a classic car show only meant that, come the hour, I had to drag my two small children away from the enticing bungee bounce in order to be able to make my time.

On arrival at the recycling centre (as the tip is now styled) it was like stepping back to April 2020. Large illuminated signs warned the approaching visitor of the dangers of Covid and reassured them there were numerous measures in place for their safety and to prevent the spread. Staff would not be able physically to help with disposing of items, the signs declared. That’s a noble sacrifice on their part, was the unkind thought that went thought my head.

“It’s like We’re Constantly in Crisis”: GPs Face Millions of Appointments Due to Lockdown Backlog

More than 28 million people booked appointments with their GP in March making it one of the busiest months ever, and practices expect to remain this busy for many months to come due to the patient backlog caused by lockdowns. The MailOnline has the story.

The figure was five million more than in February – a sudden spike of 20%.

And doctors say they no longer see highs and lows in patient flows throughout the year, and that instead it is like they’re constantly in crisis.

Dr Dean Eggitt, a GP in Doncaster in South Yorkshire, told the broadcaster: “The ability to catch up has gone. That was before Covid. Then Covid hit and then it’s just peak, peak, peak, peak all the time.”

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic people avoided the NHS – having been advised to except in emergencies during the first wave – and officials fear that many have developed serious illnesses like cancers and not been checked.

The number of people dying at home surged to above average levels while non-Covid hospital deaths were less common, suggesting people were missing out on end-of-life medical care.

A&E visits plummeted while the virus was circulating but they have surged again recently with the “worried well” returning to hospital emergency departments.

Dr Eggitt told the BBC: “We have almost a tsunami of patients coming to us. It feels like the river has flooded the banks.

“I see no end of it stopping. It just keeps coming and coming and coming in this one massive endless wave of patients.”

A Health Foundation analysis of NHS data found that there were around 31 million fewer GP practice appointments between April 2020 and March 2021 than in the previous year – 279 million compared to 310 million.

This was likely not a result of fewer people being ill but of fewer visiting their family doctor, meaning millions may have gone without care they usually would have had.

As a result, the patients now turning up to appointments are sicker than they would have been if they had seen a doctor six months ago.

Worth reading in full.