I’ve felt pretty powerless to help save lives lately. I mean, I’m not a doctor or nurse or a person who keeps hospitals clean. Frankly by staying in my garden on my laptop over the sunny Easter weekend, I’m actually helping to save more lives than I’ve ever had the opportunity to. As are you. Feeling a need to do any more perhaps means I just need to have a quiet word with my ego. But I think it’s a pretty natural human response to watching that graph go up by a chunk every day. So I thought I’d begin to share some things that have been shared with me, about how you can help the coronavirus effort even from the inside of your lockdown bubble.
You can’t turn a corner without hearing about personal protective equipment this spring. From what I can gather there have been some heroic efforts made in the UK to produce and distribute PPE to healthcare workers at a time when much of the planet suddenly wants it all at once. The World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance is clear: every healthcare worker should have access to masks, long-sleeved gowns, gloves and eye protection. The British Medical Association (BMA) has been putting pressure on the government to revise its guidance to match that of the WHO. Finally the UK government’s guidance has been updated.
But there’s an enormous problem. The government has publicly said that there are sufficient supplies and deliveries of PPE. But the BMA has surveyed doctors and shown the reality is that there are acute shortages of PPE. The UK government’s words are not translating into enough supplies in hospitals and GP practices. Over 40% of hospital doctors and 62% of GPs surveyed reported shortages of face masks. I find it horrifying that also 90% of GPs in contact with coronavirus patients said they had either limited or no access to eye protection.
I have a friend who is a GP and another who is an intensive care nurse. They accept that there are risks with treating Covid patients and carry on with their jobs regardless. As are their colleagues all around the country. But knowing that healthcare workers are doing so without all the PPE they need is… well I struggle to find the words. Masks, long-sleeved gowns, gloves and eye protection are the best ways to help keep them safe. For the sake of their own lives. For the sake of their families who they go home to at the end of their shifts. And so they can continue to do what they desperately want to do: help the rest of us.
There’s a petition about PPE on Change.org. Please sign it if you agree with what they’re asking for. I’m watching the new signatures appear on it and right now it seems to be going up by a few names every minute. They’re past 700,000 names already. Share it with everyone you know in the UK. Most petitions don’t get numbers that big, that quickly. This is a real and urgent chance for us to get our collective voice heard. To show that we stand by what healthcare workers’ organisations are asking for.Sign the Change.org petition
Write to your MP, AMs or MSP
If you feel able to, also write an email your MP to tell them you think it’s morally right for every healthcare worker to be given masks, long-sleeved gowns, gloves and eye protection. If you live in Wales or Scotland please write to your AMs or MSP as well. WriteToThem is a brilliant website where you can pop your postcode in to find your representatives and send them an email with almost no effort.
It doesn’t have to be a work of literature. I’m lucky to have worked as a campaigner supporting people to lobby their MPs, so I thought I’d share some suggestions of what you could say to your MP. Here is roughly what I’ve said to my MP today — feel free to paste it into your message as a starting point:
[Start with saying how you feel about the fact that doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are being asked to treat patients without PPE. If you have any family members or friends who are healthcare workers, tell them so — tell them how it affects you and people you care about.]
The UK government continues to reassure us that there are sufficient supplies of PPE reaching healthcare workers. I’m glad to hear that advice has finally been revised to match that of the World Health Organisation. But research by the British Medical Association has shown a stark difference between the UK government’s promises and the reality in hospitals and GP practices (https://www.bma.org.uk/news-and-opinion/most-doctors-still-lack-protective-equipment-finds-survey). The BMA has said that just 12% of hospital doctors and 2% of GPs stated they felt fully protected from the virus whilst at work. And 90% of GPs in contact with coronavirus patients said that they had either limited access to eye protection or none at all. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a moral outrage.
We are all relying on doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to protect us at this time more than ever. How can they do that if we don’t also protect them?
The health secretary has said “There’s enough PPE to go around, but only if it’s used in line with our guidance. We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource that it is.” What an insult to front line healthcare workers to suggest that their PPE shortages are due to them wasting it.
Please could you do everything in your power to ensure that this tragic situation does not continue. There are hundreds of unpreventable deaths from Covid-19 happening every day around the UK. There is no way to justify adding deaths to that number that could have been prevented by adequate PPE. I urge you to demand that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care does everything possible to close the gap between the UK government’s promises and the reality of PPE shortages on the NHS front line.
Things to remember
- Try to put a few sentences in to say in your own words how you feel about it. I promise you that a few personal words from a constituent is worth much, much more than just a copy-paste job from a website.
- If you live in Matt Hancock MP’s constituency of West Suffolk you will need to reword the last paragraph as he is, of course, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and shouldn’t be speaking to himself.
- Similarly if your MP is a Cabinet minister you might want to reword some of the message.
- If you are writing to an AM or MSP you should change the last paragraph to ask them to urge the Welsh Government or Scottish Government to do everything in its power to tackle PPE shortages in Wales or Scotland.
- You must include your address with postcode. MPs, AMs and MSPs are only supposed to deal with their own constituents, so their offices need to be able to check you live in the right constituency before replying. WriteToThem has address fields in its form for that reason.
- WriteToThem will send you a confirmation link by email after every message you send. Make sure you click the link each time, or your message won’t be sent! There may be a few minutes’ delay before it arrives, so keep an eye out for it.
It might not feel like we’re able to do much to help keep healthcare workers safe during this dangerous time for them. And that’s true. But let’s do what we are able to do.
A summary of what you can do to help
- Sign the “Personal protective equipment (PPE) for ALL frontline NHS staff” petition at Change.org.
- Use WriteToThem to send an email to your MP. If you live in Wales or Scotland you can use it to contact your AMs or MSP too.
- Share the petition or this blog post on social media.
- Talk to people you know and see if they feel able to write to their MP, AMs or MSP.