Hospital patient. Photo: Parentingupstream from Pixabay / Public Domain Hospital patient. Photo: Parentingupstream from Pixabay / Public Domain

Health workers and patients are suffering from the government’s disastrous handling of the pandemic and their contempt for the NHS, argues Caitlin Southern.

As coronavirus cases continue to surge and hospital admissions are at a crisis point, the expensive publicity stunt that was the Nightingale hospital is being dismantled.

Without the staff and supplies to keep existing hospitals running safely, there was no realistic way that they could be used to cope with the swift rises in infections that have been caused by the government’s failure to follow scientific advice to control the pandemic.

Despite warnings that they could never be used as anything other than attention-grabbing headline fillers, the government has wasted yet more public money on them instead of investing it in patient care.  

Everything from the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme, to the insistence on returning to face-to-face teaching in schools and the decision to allow households to mix at Christmas, seems to have been designed to drive up the rate of virus transmission, putting more pressure on a health service that was already at breaking point following a decade of austerity measures.

The constantly changing and always vague, unenforced containment measures have only contributed to the problem as people are left with no clear idea of what they can do to help us all survive and come out of this over-extended crisis.

The NHS is facing a worse situation than in March, as the numbers of patients are higher than at any other point and look set to climb further, while staff are burning out at an increasing rate. This extra pressure – coupled with a lack of visible public support for key workers, and delays and confusion around the roll out of the various vaccines – is pushing the health service into an impossible position as hospital trusts begin to implement crisis plans.

Scrambling to find beds and the staff to provide necessary care is adding to the emotional toll already exacted by the pandemic, with workers being forced to provide a lower level of care than they are capable of in order to cope with the increasing numbers of patients.

The government’s deliberate, constant devaluing of the NHS and its workers throughout the pandemic reflects both their attitude that we are disposable and their determination to replace the service with a private, profit driven model.

By choosing to fail the NHS, they are preparing the public for privatisation and normalising a poorer level of healthcare, making it ever more likely that the idea of a comprehensive universal system will be jettisoned in favour of allowing corporations to exploit people when they are most vulnerable.

If our NHS is to survive the ravages of this ghoulish Tory government we need to continue to fight for a full, solid lockdown that includes school closures and remote working to suppress transmission while demanding a swift and efficient vaccine distribution to all.

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