Chris Whitty: the Chief Medical Officer has now self-isolated with symptoms of the coronavirus himself. Doesn’t that suggest there’s something wrong with his ideas?
Those of you who have been following This Site over the past few days will have read article after article exposing the failures of the Conservative government – firstly to anticipate, then to combat the coronavirus crisis.
So it should come as no surprise that these failures have ensured that NHS workers and people who contract Covid-19 will die, who should be saved.
And the pedigree of the man making that claim should not be doubted: Richard Horton is the editor of what is possibly the most highly-regarded medical journal of them all: The Lancet.
He said measures implemented “far too late” had left the NHS “wholly unprepared for the surge of severely and critically ill patients”.
As a result, it had been plunged into “chaos and panic”, with patients and NHS staff condemned to “die unnecessarily”.
He pointed to an article in The Lancet, already referenced by This Site, stated on January 24 that the coronavirus was on the verge of becoming a global pandemic and urged the government to ensure that the NHS was prepared.
But Boris Johnson and his government didn’t bother. Successive Conservative governments over the previous 10 years had systematically dismantled the UK’s capability of tackling a pandemic like Covid-19.
The strategy to deal with it was last updated in 2011 and is hopelessly out-of-date.
The dedicated government Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Team, tasked with tackling this type of crisis, vanished around 2011.
The crucial document for getting the right messages to the public – the Communications Strategy – was written in 2012 and is wildly inaccurate in its assumptions about how and where people now get their information.
Worst of all, the government guide to dealing with the fatalities of a pandemic – the deaths – was written in 2008 and had never been updated.
Perhaps we should not be surprised, then, that the Conservative government’s response to coronavirus – throughout February – was wrong.
The Lancet article warned that “preparedness plans should be readied for deployment at short notice, including securing supply chains of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, hospital supplies and the necessary human resources”. But this warning was ignored.
Mr Horton lays the blame for this on Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, Chief Executive Officer of the NHS in England Simon Stevens and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance.
Vallance’s was the mind behind the ridiculous “herd immunity” scheme to allow us all to become infected and if millions of vulnerable people died, that was a reasonable price to pay if the rest developed a resistance to the virus.
It didn’t last long but valuable days were wasted and, of course, while the overarching strategy was “do nothing”, nothing was being done to make the UK ready to fight the disease.
And when the government finally adopted an acceptable approach, the NHS was caught unprepared.
It didn’t have pharmaceutical supply chains ready – note the call for volunteers to ship medicines where they’re needed.
It didn’t have the necessary human resources.
And it didn’t have personal protective equipment, despite protestations to the contrary. As part of his article, Mr Horton called on England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jenny Harries, to apologise to health workers for saying the UK has “a perfectly adequate supply of PPE” and supply pressures had been “completely resolved” on March 20.
She was wrong, and it means doctors are risking their own health, if not their lives, every day by having to assess patients with respiratory symptoms, without the equipment necessary to protect themselves.
Worse still, the government didn’t follow basic World Health Organisation (WHO) advice. According to Mr Horton: “They didn’t isolate and quarantine. They didn’t contact trace. These basic principles of public health and infectious disease control were ignored, for reasons that remain opaque.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: all the way down the line, Boris Johnson and his government have had to be dragged into doing the right thing – always late and never willingly.
Already more than 1,000 people have been acknowledged to have died.
And it seems clear that more will follow – who would have lived if Mr Johnson and his ministers, their advisors and the leaders of the NHS had simply done their jobs properly.
If the Conservative government really was planning to sell off the National Health Service as part of a trade deal with a foreign power – Trump’s USA or anyone else – wouldn’t it make sense to ensure that there were plenty of sick people in the United Kingdom who the buyers could use to make a profit?
I know. That kind of behaviour would indicate mental illness on the part of our leaders.
Or it would suggest a strong profit motive.
A new report from the think tank IPPR argues that progress on preventing ill health has ‘hit a wall’ since 2010.
Over half of the disease burden in England is deemed preventable, with one in five deaths attributed to causes that could have been avoided.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
It seems Yr Obdt Srvt has become the victim of DWP game-playing that shows contempt for sick and disabled benefit claimants whose lives are threatened by poor decision-making.
You may be familiar with the following saying (or at least with the fact that George W Bush wasn’t): “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
I mention this as a precursor to the following story, for reasons that should become clear.
Back in May, I sent another Freedom of Information request to the Department for Work and Pensions, again asking for an update of the ad-hoc statistical release Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of Recipients from mid-2012 (long-term readers will be aware a previous request was refused as “vexatious”).
In it, I pointed out: “A response to a previous Freedom of Information request (FOI 2013-IR665) stated that ‘Whilst we currently have no plans to directly update the ad hoc report on “Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of Recipients” published on 9th July 2012, the Department does monitor requests we receive for new statistics and consider whether we can produce and release analysis that will helpfully inform public debate. The Department is therefore looking at this issue with a view to seeing what statistics could be produced on a regular basis.’
“It went on to state that ‘the balance of the public interest test falls in favour of withholding this information. As I have explained above, statistics on this issue will be published in due course.’
“I have studied DWP release schedules extensively and in the 11 months since I made my request, I have found no publication of statistics on this issue… Was the DWP’s statement that ‘statistics on this issue… will be published in due course’ made in error?
“If this is the case, then there can be no public interest argument against disclosure of this information in response to either my previous request or any future request, as it is not set to be published as part of the DWP’s current schedule. I remind you that this is time-sensitive information; it is important that the data becomes public knowledge as soon as it is available, in order to inform government policy and avoid preventable fatalities in the future.”
If this was not the case, I continued, then – as at midday on May 28 this year, what was the date on which it is planned that the DWP will be publishing figures from November 2011 to those which are most up-to-date?
If no date of publication was set down, I concluded, then the DWP had a duty to provide an update, to me, immediately.
I reminded the Department’s FOI officers that an email from the DWP to the Information Commissioner’s office, dated October 21, 2013, stated that “we can confirm that the Department does hold, and could provide within the cost limit… the information requested.”
The substantive issue: A DWP statistical release in 2012 showed that more than 200 people were dying every week as a result of Iain Duncan Smith’s changes to assessment procedures for incapacity benefits – either they were put into groups where unreasonable demands were placed on them or the stress and anxiety of constant re-assessment was too much for their bodies to take. Many were driven to suicide.
Apart from acknowledging receipt, the DWP ignored my request. I therefore invoked my right to have it reconsidered, immediately after the legally-prescribed period ran out. By this time the DWP was already breaking the law.
Apart from acknowledging receipt, the DWP ignored my reconsideration request. Are you getting angry about this yet? Remember, it is about deaths caused by government policy. I therefore notified the Information Commissioner and requested a ruling on this matter.
The Commission responded late last month, saying the DWP had 10 working days to get a response back to me. Tomorrow was the deadline and the response arrived today.
You’re really not going to like it.
“Unfortunately there was a mistake in the response you were sent for FOI 2013-IR665. Due to an administrative error an Annex A (about the Public Interest Test) appeared at the very end of the letter. It was not intended for this response and as such there is no mention of it anywhere in the main letter.
“So the answer to your first question ‘Was the DWP’s statement that ‘statistics on this issue [incapacity benefits: deaths of recipients] will be published in due course’ made in error?’ with respect to the reply you received is yes. That statement was not intended to be part of the response and was therefore made in error. We therefore attach a corrected copy of the reply to FOI 2013-IR665 and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
That is not good enough. There was no way I could have read that response without believing that I was being told updated statistics were to be published in the future; any other interpretation would have defied common sense.
Also, it makes a nonsense of what was said in the body of the response – that the DWP was working on releasing figures on a regular basis.
And it means one of two things: Either the DWP was lying then, when it said work was progressing on what could be published, or it is lying now, by saying the information about the public interest test was included in error.
Either way, it seems clear that the intention was to stop my request from progressing any further.
Let’s move on to the really insulting part. Today’s response states, and I quote verbatim:
“We can confirm that we do intend to publish further statistics on this topic and these will answer a majority of your questions. As the statistics are intended for future publication this information is exempt from disclosure under the terms of Section 22 (Information intended for future publication) of the FOIA. This exemption is qualified, and is therefore subject to a public interest test. The public interest test is where the Department considers whether the balance of the public interest falls in favour of withholding or disclosing the information requested.
“Arguments in favour of disclosure: There are public interest arguments in favour of disclosure of this information at the present time. Disclosure would for example improve transparency in the operations of the Department.
“Arguments against disclosure: There are public interest arguments against disclosure of this information at the present time. These arguments include that it is in the public interest to adhere to the existing publication process for official statistics, which includes time for the data to be collated and properly verified.
“It is also in the public interest to ensure that the publication of official information is a properly planned and managed process, to ensure that the data are accurate once placed into the public domain. It is also in the public interest to ensure that the information is available to all members of the public at the same time, and premature publication could undermine the principle of making the information available to all at the same time through the official publication process.
“On this occasion, the balance of the public interest test falls in favour of withholding this information. As explained above, statistics on this issue will be published in due course.
“We do not have a planned publication date at this stage but we will pre-announce the agreed date.”
That’s right – having apologised for misleading me into believing that updated information was to be produced when it wasn’t, the DWP went on to say that updated information was to be produced, but it wasn’t going to provide that information to me – even though no publication date has been set – for precisely the same reasons, to the letter, for which it had just apologised.
I get the impression that someone in Caxton House is trying to be funny.
What a big joke – to put off a Freedom of Information request about thousands of needless deaths with an excuse that has already been used wrongly, on the basis that it was wrong then but it isn’t now.
No. Not funny.
Pants: Iain Duncan Smith
The situation is reminiscent of one mentioned in an article earlier today, wherein someone blew the whistle on Iain Duncan Smith’s expenses claim for underwear so he called her into a meeting and reduced her to tears with a show of belligerence. The substantive issue was of no interest to the man we call RTU (Returned To Unit); his only worry was that it should be hidden from the public. The same applies here.
As mentioned at the start: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I won’t be fooled again.
The information is held by the DWP, and could be provided easily enough.
The public interest test cannot be applied to my request as the DWP has not proved that statistics on this issue will be published in due course. For this to apply, a publication date would have to have been provided in the response and none was forthcoming.
Therefore I conclude that the DWP’s response is false and will be appealing to the Information Commissioner again – and to the First-Tier Tribunal if necessary. The tribunal is likely to take a very dim view of this as, after a previous hearing, its members stated that “we have considerable sympathy for the appellant”.
We have to prove that these people are not above the law.
We always knew that the Tories don’t give a damn about the fundamental principles of our National Health Service – for example, the one that says access to healthcare should be based on clinical need.
The papers today are reporting on a Conservative Party document which proposes a cap on the number of GP consultations you will be allowed to have every year.
The attitude seems to be that allowing people to see their doctor as many times as are needed is a luxury that the UK cannot afford. From this, we can conclude that money is more important than health to them.
This is contradictory, though – didn’t the Conservatives push through an unnecessary top-down reorganisation of the health service in England at a cost of £3 billion? And aren’t they busily opening up opportunities for their chums in private health companies to make a profit out of the NHS, meaning billions more will be siphoned off into their bank accounts as profit, rather than being used to benefit patients?
The paper asks readers to respond with their opinions on what a GP’s “core” or “essential” services should be, and asks if they should be better-defined so that patients know what they can expect. Significantly, it provides ‘case studies’ from Switzerland and the Netherlands, concentrating on health insurance schemes in use within those countries.
This is the direction of travel, then: We can see that the Tories definitely intend to push us all into buying health insurance schemes, rather than enjoying the current service which is free at the point of use.
Now join the dots:
Health insurance means we would only get what we pay for. If this consultation provides the blueprint, then the rest of the country would get a basic package that is defined by only a few Tory adherents and optimised to make the most profit for the companies running the schemes.
There is already an insurance company working with the UK government – Unum, the company with a criminal record in its home country, the USA, for selling schemes designed to make it close to impossible for anyone to receive a payout.
Do any of you seriously believe, if these plans go through, that you would receive any healthcare worth having?
I read about this on the day I also read about double-heart and lung transplant patient Linda Wootton, who died just nine days after being told her entitlement for Employment and Support Allowance had been stopped because she was fit for work (she was, in fact, dying on a hospital bed at the time).
My first impression was, therefore, that this was an attempt by the Conservatives to stop people from compiling the medical evidence needed to contest ESA entitlement decisions.
But then I remembered: The work capability assessment is not a medical test and does not rely on medical evidence from anyone who is qualified to have an opinion about it. So it can’t be that.
If this gets passed into law, you should expect your health, and that of everyone you know, to worsen exponentially as time goes by. It’s as the U2 lyric from the 1980s put it: “The rich stay healthy while the sick stay poor”. There will be many, many deaths due to preventable causes.
The New World Order conspiracy theorists are probably salivating at the thought of this – they’ll believe it proves what they’ve been saying all along, that there is a cadre of ‘elite’ manipulators who intend to thin out the world population and this is part of that agenda.
There is only one thing to do: Protest. The ‘discussion brief’ entitled ‘Local Health’ was buried on the Conservative Policy Forum website when the papers reported on it, but now it has magically found its way to the top of the homepage. So why not visit www.conservativepolicyforum.com, read the document for yourself and make your opinions known in no uncertain terms:
Hands off our NHS!
Ask yourself how many of the people who wrote the paper actually use the NHS. If they don’t play the game, why are they so determined to make up the rules?
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