Nosocomial infection

Is it Safe to Use the NHS Yet? Deciphering the Government’s Mixed Messages

In a guest post, Dr Ann Bradshaw, a retired senior lecturer in adult nursing at Oxford Brookes, says the Government is still giving off mixed messages about how open and safe the NHS is. Could this be putting people off using it? Is this why there were still 800 excess deaths at home in the week ending March 12th, 30% above the five-year average, even though deaths overall were 4.4% below the five-year average?

First, in March after my Covid vaccination the NHS offered me a mammogram. I readily accepted the invitation. Then my GP surgery offered me a pneumococcal vaccination from a “limited supply”. I had never heard of it so looked it up on the NHS website. Oh, I saw it is offered to everyone age 65. I was never offered it before. Never mind, I thought. In these pandemic days I will take anything offered.

But, wait a minute. 40% of Covid is caught in hospitals I had read, and what about GP surgeries? I asked a doctor friend what to do. He advised to wait until my booster. But will I miss my chance if the supply is “limited”? Decisions, decisions.

I phoned the GP hoping for reassuring advice. The surgery is bound, I thought, to tell me all the social distancing measures in place to keep me safe. Perhaps I will be told to wait in a socially distanced queue outside and the nurse would meet me in the car park with the syringe for the jab? But no such advice. Instead, the receptionist said: “Oh don’t worry, we are not as full as we were before the pandemic.” But what of all the hacking coughers in the waiting room, I wondered? And anyway, hasn’t the Government told us for weeks: “Beware of the silent symptomless spreaders”. The Government’s constant warnings ring in my ears “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”. “Don’t you know there is a lockdown on?” The lockdown is still on in March, so the Government must still be worried, and therefore so am I. “But if I postpone until after my booster”, I asked the surgery receptionist and surgery manager, “will I still get it?” “That depends on our limited supplies,” they replied. Decisions, decisions.

And what of the mammogram? Will I be socially distanced in the waiting room? Will the radiographer have clean hands? Will the equipment carry Covid specks? The Government warnings ring again, loudly in my ears. Hospitals are breeding grounds. How many secret Covid spreaders will I encounter? To put my mind at rest I Googled “mammogram” and “Covid”. Oh no – apparently, mammograms after Covid vaccinations can give false positives. So that’s out. Easy decision this time. Or is it? What if I have a hidden lump?

And don’t even mention the dentist. Other people’s mouths and the hygienist’s breath are bound to give me Covid. 

Ah, you might say. But you have been vaccinated against Covid. Surely you are safe? And my answer is: have you not read the NHS website? You are not safe. The NHS message is that GPs and dentists and routine scans “are open”. The message is not that they are “safe” and my GP’s website confirms this. Even a jab does not make me safe. “You cannot go back to life as normal”, it says. 

Making decisions means getting inside the mind of Government. On the one hand Government obviously believes I can’t be safe from Covid because all the restrictions remain – and there are no excuses for the vaccinated, whether jabbed once or jabbed twice. Restrictions are for everyone to keep us all safe, to protect the NHS and save our lives. Aren’t they? On the other hand, the Government says the NHS is open for routine business. But is this, I wonder in a moment of cynicism, just to save face – to avoid the criticism that people are not being treated for non-Covid illnesses? I am very confused. Am I safe for normal life and routine NHS treatment or not safe for normal life and routine NHS treatment?

Up to Two Thirds of Serious Covid Infections are Caught in Hospital – Study

An important pre-print was published last week by Public Health Scotland looking at how all 204,913 people eligible for shielding (the “clinically extremely vulnerable”) – about 3% of the population – have fared during the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers matched all 160,307 positive cases of COVID-19 (as of January 28th) to individuals in Scotland to form a complete picture of the course of their illness in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the shielding programme.

Their striking conclusion was they found “no evidence that the shielding programme per se reduced COVID-19 rates”, though they allowed for the possibility that “without shielding advice and support the outcome in this group would have been worse”.