NHS

Matt Hancock’s Error-Strewn Argument for Mandatory Vaccination Puts His Authoritarian Impulse on Full Display

Disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was forced to resign in June when he breached the Covid guidance he had imposed on everyone else through having an affair with an aide, wrote an article in the Telegraph this week calling for immediate mandatory vaccination for NHS and social-care workers. The Government announced last week that it would delay mandatory vaccination for these workers until April 2022 to avoid exacerbating winter staffing problems, with an estimated 100,000 NHS workers still unvaccinated. Hancock, however, argues this is a mistake that puts lives at risk.

His article contains so many factual and logical errors, however, that it serves primarily as an illustration of why Hancock as Health Secretary was such a disaster for the country, with an untamed authoritarian impulse and the absence of capacity for critical or nuanced thinking. Hancock’s world is one of crisp, clean black and white, where science speaks in unison, and what is healthy becomes what is morally required and what is morally required becomes what is legally required with barely a pause for breath. If there is any liberal impulse in there he conceals it very well indeed.

Let’s take a few minutes to go through his piece and spot the many places where his argument falls down.

One year ago today, the UK was in a perilous position in our fight against COVID-19. In the absence of vaccines, there was no way to fight the pandemic without painful lockdowns and deprivations of freedom. But the development of vaccines has changed all that.

This is a bad start. It repeats the false claim that COVID-19 cannot be managed without restrictions or vaccines. This completely disregards the evidence of places which imposed few or no restrictions, such as Sweden, Florida, South Dakota, Japan and Tanzania, and fared no worse than places which imposed the harshest restrictions. It also ignores the evidence from numerous published studies showing that the stringency and timing of restrictions was not associated with significant differences in outcomes.

But the honest truth is that vaccination matters more for some than others. Obviously, vaccination matters most for the oldest, and for those who care for the most vulnerable, too. After all, getting the vaccine isn’t just to protect you, but to protect those around you who you might otherwise infect.

Matt Hancock Demands That Mandatory Vaccination for NHS Staff Must Arrive before Winter

hancock.jpg

The former Health Secretary has declared that NHS workers must be coerced into having both doses of a Covid vaccine before the onset of winter, while criticising unvaccinated staff for dismissing “all the scientific and clinical advice”. However, the current Health Secretary Sajid Javid wishes to delay the implementation of mandatory vaccinations for NHS employees until April of next year to avoid a severe staffing shortage over the Christmas period. The MailOnline has more.

Hancock, who quit in June after breaching his own social distancing rules by kissing a married colleague, said the move would act as another “tool to save lives” during what is projected to be a harsh winter for the health service.

He also scorned NHS staff who are still not vaccinated and don’t have a valid medical reason, warning that it was their “moral duty” and that they had “ignored all the scientific and clinical advice”.

Ministers have for weeks been considering whether to make Covid jabs compulsory within the health service after pushing through the requirement for care home workers in the summer. 

But last week the Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared to push back the inoculation deadline until April amid warnings from NHS bosses that introducing a ‘no jab, no job’ policy now could leave hospitals understaffed at a crucial period.

Writing in the the Telegraph, Hancock, who was Health Secretary for three years, warned ministers against delaying compulsory vaccinations for the sector into the new year.

He said: “having looked at all the evidence, I am now convinced we must require vaccination for everyone who works not just in social care but the NHS, and get it in place as fast as possible… so as we prepare to a face a difficult winter, let’s use all the tools we have to save lives. 

Imagine the cancer patient, already battling another deadly disease, being cared for by a nurse. Who can put their hand on their heart and say they’d be happy to tell that patient their nurse could have the vaccine, but has chosen against all scientific and clinical advice to ignore it.”

Hancock said doctors and nurses had a “moral duty” to get the Covid vaccine to protect their patients.

A SAGE adviser said today it was a “general standard of hygiene” for anyone in a frontline role in contact with vulnerable patients to be double vaccinated against Covid. But they stopped short of calling for jabs to be made compulsory, saying this should only be done as a “last resort”. 

NHS England figures show only a small minority of NHS staff are still to get two doses of the vaccine, with more than nine in 10 doctors and nurses having already received both jabs. Health chiefs warned yesterday that hospitals are already at peak winter levels of bed occupancy despite it being early in the season. 

All care home workers will be required to have had two doses of the Covid vaccine from Thursday or lose their jobs, under a policy brought in while Hancock was Health Secretary. 

But the Government’s own figures suggest this will lead to some 40,000 care home workers losing their jobs in the already understaffed sector. This could lead to the closure of up to 500 homes, putting extra pressure on hospitals which will be unable to discharge patients well enough to be taken off the wards.

Worth reading in full.

Mandatory Vaccination For NHS Workers Would Lead to A Winter Staffing Crisis, Warns NHS Providers Chief

Chris Hopson, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers has sent a warning that the NHS could suffer severe staff shortages this winter if mandatory vaccination for NHS staff comes into effect. Approximately 10% of all NHS workers haven’t received two doses of a Covid vaccine, which encompasses roughly 120,000 members of staff, with Hopson saying that any vaccine mandate should be delayed until April to avoid any serious problems over the next few months. The Telegraph has the story.

Latest NHS figures show that 90% of staff have been double-jabbed. However, about 120,000 workers are not – and at some trusts, including major hospitals in London and Birmingham, uptake is as low as 80%.

Barts Health NHS Trust, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust and Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust all have an uptake of 80% or less, according to NHS figures for the week ending October 14th. 

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, last week said he is “leaning towards” making jabs compulsory for frontline health workers.

But on Monday Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said that if the Government was to press ahead, it should delay until April to ensure the NHS can get through the “very, very difficult winter”…

Hopson said around two thirds of NHS leaders backed mandatory jabs, but one third objected. 

He told BBC Breakfast: “If we lose very large numbers of unvaccinated staff, particularly over the winter period, then that also constitutes a risk to patient safety and quality of care.

“We know – and the Chief Medical Officer has said this really clearly – that we’ve got a very, very difficult winter coming up and we know the NHS is going to be absolutely at full stretch.

“So it makes sense to set the deadline once that winter period has passed”.

Worth reading in full.

A Patient Writes…

Jonny Peppiatt, a regular contributor to the Daily Sceptic, has just returned home after a recent hospital stay. He shares his thoughts about what it’s like to be a non-Covid patient in a Covid-obsessed NHS.

“The back left of my throat is extremely painful. It hurts too much to talk, or eat, and feels like if it swells up any more then my throat will close. The pain’s spread through the left side of my jaw, my back teeth, and my left ear now too. I wouldn’t normally come to A&E for a “sore throat”, but I am worried about this swelling and struggling to breathe.”

That was the note I showed the receptionist at A&E this morning at about 3:40am. She took my details and I took a seat, prepared for the wait with some Netflix downloads, Spotify, and some work to do. Anything to distract me from the pain in my throat.

About half an hour later I was called to triage. First question: Have you had your Covid vaccine?” I answered their question honestly, and there was no follow up. Triage concluded that I should stick around, get some blood tests, and see a doctor. So that’s what I did.

The doctor took a look around my throat, asked if I’d had my Covid vaccine, confirmed the results of the bloods showed a very high infection, and told me she’d like to give me some medication and some antibiotics. She then told me to go back to the waiting room and wait to be called through to the main area of the hospital.

Rishi Sunak to Announce £6 Billion Spending Package to Fight Growing NHS Backlog

In an effort to turn the tide on the expanding NHS backlog, estimated to encompass a record 5.7 million people on the waiting list, with an additional 100,000 being added every month, Rishi Sunak is set to announce a £6 billion spending package to help solve the crisis. In turn, roughly £2.3 billion will be earmarked for diagnostic services in an attempt to treat patients who have yet to receive access to NHS services. The Guardian has the story.

In an effort to get a grip on the crisis, the Chancellor will unveil plans for investment in NHS capital funding this week to help deliver about 30% more elective activity by 2024-25 compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is equivalent to millions more checks, scans and procedures for non-emergency patients.

“We are committed to getting health services back on track and ensuring no one is left waiting for vital tests or treatment,” said Sunak. “This is a game changing investment in the NHS to make sure we have the right buildings, equipment and systems to get patients the help they need and make sure the NHS is fit for the future.”

Dr. Layla McCay, Director of Policy at the NHS Confederation, said health leaders would welcome the funding, but added that it still “falls short” of what is needed “to get services completely back on track”.

McCay also warned that the funding would only deliver results if there were “the right number and mix of workers”. She said: “Recruitment is ongoing but with 80,000 vacancies across the NHS and fully qualified GPs per patient having dropped by 10% over the past five years, this is a long-term issue that cannot be fixed quickly.”

The waiting list is now rising by about 100,000 a month as more people who did not seek or could not access NHS treatment over the past 18 months visit a GP and are referred to hospital. The number of patients waiting more than two years has risen to nearly 10,000.

Worth reading in full.

Sajid Javid Wants to Introduce Legislation to Force All NHS Staff to Get Vaccinated against Covid “As Soon as Possible”

There’s more today on the Government’s thoughts on forcing all NHS staff to be ‘fully vaccinated’ against Covid, with the Health Secretary believed to be keen to introduce legislation that would make vaccination a condition of employment “as soon as possible”. The Sunday Times has the story.

[Sajid Javid] believes the move would protect vulnerable patients from catching the virus in hospital, but health groups have warned that it could force trusts to fire staff or remove them from frontline duties. In England, 106,351 NHS staff have still not been vaccinated, about 7% of the total.

Javid is also preparing to roll out booster jabs to the under-50s after Christmas, although they have yet to be approved by experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The Health Secretary, who has set up a “war room” and is chairing daily meetings on the Covid crisis, has drawn up new measures to ease pressure on the NHS and curb surging Covid cases, which last week surpassed 50,000 in a day for the first time in three months. …

A source close to Javid claimed he has not ruled out another national lockdown. However, it is understood that [Boris] Johnson does not want any new Covid restrictions until after COP26, the climate change summit that begins in Glasgow next weekend. “No one wants to spook the horses,” said a source. …

Javid has refused to pause a requirement for care home staff to be fully vaccinated by November 11th, despite claims that it could lead to up to 100,000 of them quitting.

Worth reading in full.

Get the Booster Vaccine or Lose the Freedom to Enjoy Christmas, Warns NHS Chief

Less than a week after Laura Dodsworth wrote a piece on the ‘nudges‘ involved in the Government’s threats of more restrictions, the NHS’s most senior doctor has warned Britons that our freedom to enjoy Christmas could be stripped from us if enough people don’t get a ‘booster’ Covid vaccine.

“The freedom we now all enjoy,” Professor Stephen Powis writes in the Sunday Telegraph, “is a direct result of the country’s willingness and desire to come forward for a Covid jab when it has been offered.” That very ‘freedom’ will be gone again if take-up doesn’t stay high.

Although the country once again finds itself at a crunch point, the NHS vaccination programme remains the strongest weapon in the armoury. Because we rolled out jabs so quickly, we are likely to see protection from the virus waning sooner than other countries. That means that without a booster, many people will find themselves more vulnerable to Covid, going into winter. So it’s vital that everyone gets their top-up jab as soon as they are eligible.

People will be contacted to book their jab six months after their second dose. And if for some reason you don’t receive an invite, you will be able to book directly through the national booking service after you become eligible.

We have to seize the moment, get our booster jab and protect ourselves as we go into what will no doubt be a tough winter, particularly as we are likely to see seasonal flu pose a risk to our health. And to maximise the impact of the vaccination programme we must all continue to act responsibly.

The more of us that come forward for our booster jab, and the more we keep our resolve in helping to limit the spread of infection, then the greater chance we all have of staying well.

So, when your time comes, take up the offer, book your booster and protect the freedom and Christmas that we have all earned and deserve to enjoy.

Worth reading in full.

Hospital Appointments in Glasgow Being Cancelled to Reduce Road Traffic during COP26

Hundreds of patients in Glasgow are having face-to-face hospital appointments cancelled or rescheduled ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) which begins next week in the hope that this will help to clear up the roads. The Herald has the story.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it would be increasing the number of virtual consultations and moving some face-to-face consultations to different times of the day in order to accommodate a “temporary increase in population” in the city over the two-week climate summit.

Patients began receiving letters over the past week notifying them of changes to their appointments.

It comes amid warnings that the event itself could trigger a fresh spike in Covid cases, piling preassure on an already overstretched NHS.

Health cheifs at neighbouring NHS Lanarkshire – where the majority of non-urgent elective surgeries have been paused since August – have now escalated its risk status to ‘Black’ and confirmed that a number of cancer procedures will be postponed. These will be rescheduled “as soon as possible”, they said.

One Glasgow patient with long Covid symptoms, who is due to see several specialists, told the Herald their face-to-face appointments had been changed suddenly to telephone consultations after months of waiting. …

[They said] that it was ironic patients were being switched to phone and video appointments to free up roads for climate deligates flying into Scotland who “really should have held their meetings virtually”.

Worth reading in full.

To read more of the article without hitting a paywall, view the cover of today’s Herald here.

Government Wants to Make Covid Vaccination Mandatory for All Frontline NHS Staff

Reports suggest that Sajid Javid, who recently expressed hesitancy about “taking away people’s freedom” with vaccine passports, is keen to force all frontline NHS staff to get vaccinated against Covid. A decision on whether NHS staff, like care home workers, should be told to “get jabbed or get another job” is expected to be made later this month. i news has the story.

A formal consultation on making Covid and flu vaccination a condition of employment in the NHS is due to end on October 22nd, and the Health Secretary is ready to act swiftly to implement the change, i has been told.

Following a change in the law enacted this summer, staff in care homes have until November 11th to get double jabbed for Covid, after which point they will be legally barred from work without vaccination.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has separate but similar plans to require all NHS frontline staff to be fully vaccinated – unless they have a medical exemption.

Javid is privately furious with the risk that unjabbed NHS staff pose to vulnerable patients when working in both hospital and in community settings. [Privatley? He seems to be fairly open about this.] …

He is understood to want to be “even more hardline” with health service staff than with care home staff, not least as they are directly employed by the state rather than by private providers.

While no one in Government wants to publicly pre-empt the consultation, it is understood that Boris Johnson is fully behind Javid’s belief that unjabbed health staff pose a risk to the most vulnerable

Javid also wants to offer extra reassurance to vulnerable patients that they can enter hospital and be sure that all those around them are double jabbed.

There is also a concern in government that unjabbed care home staff, who are barred from working with patients from next month, have been moving into the NHS.

The vast majority of NHS staff have been double jabbed. Latest weekly figures for England show 1,326,000 have had a first jab (92%), 1,277,000 (89%) have had a second jab. But 8% have not had any jab at all.

Worth reading in full.

More than 10 Million NHS GP Appointments a Month Still Not Taking Place Face-to-Face

More than 40% (10.2 million) of the GP appointments held in England in August did not take place face-to-face, according to the latest NHS data, despite continued demands for patients to receive the treatment they need and deserve. The Telegraph has the story.

According to NHS Digital data, 57.7% of the 23.9 million GP appointments in England took place in person in the first full month following the ending of coronavirus restrictions, a total of 13.7 million.

This means that a total 10.2 million appointments did not take place face-to-face.

Before the pandemic, the number of in person appointments stood at 80%.

The figures come despite Boris Johnson saying in September that patients are entitled to see a GP in person, amid mounting concern about access to face-to-face care.

Patients’ groups and campaigners have said many vulnerable people have been unable to access care, with coroners linking a string of deaths to remote appointments.

During the first lockdown last spring the percentage of face to face appointments dropped below 50%, and has been hovering between 50 and 60% ever since. …

Total number of appointments fell in August by almost 2 million,  leaving the proportion seen face-to-face barely changed since July, when it was 56.9%. 

The problems have started to have a knock-on effect on A&Es, with emergency care doctors saying a lack of GP access is a major factor in the high numbers of people turning up at hospitals.

Worth reading in full.