After 25 years managing in a professional environment where the word ‘capacity’ frequently involves a justification to do little, please excuse me if I feel a bit fatigued with its application within the context of testing for the coronavirus.
Let’s peel back this context when Dominic Raab (The stand-in for the PM) explains the government as having a testing capacity of 40,000 a day, and this will be 100,000 in the next eight days.” On 25 March, the prime minister said: “We are going up from 5,000 to 10,000 tests per day, to 25,000, hopefully very soon up to 250,000 per day.” Professional anoraks often get themselves in a sweat over such terminology, but to help cut this short, there is the self capacity and then there is holistic capacity. There was a sleight of hand today by Dominic Raab who tried to shift the narrative from actually doing 100,000 tests a day to having the capacity to do 100,000 tests per day. Let me try to explain.
Self-capacity is pretty much self-explanatory. What government ministers are now repeatedly talking about is the government having the test capacity, which means having the resources and procedures in place so they can then commission adequate testing.
All well and good, you may say. Still, the health and care sector in the UK has been fragmented through the ideological enslavement of privatisation, outsourcing and artificial internal markets, as well as the climate of austerity, means that “self-capacity” is pretty futile. The government themselves do not do the testing. It is undertaken by either other parts of the state or a private agency contracted to carry out the tests.
One of the main reasons the government is struggling with PPE and testing is the lack of capacity throughout the health and care sector (holistic capacity throughout the supply chain) in the UK. We do not have an integrated national health and care service in the UK.
Decades of underfunding and trying to do things on the cheap through competitive market tendering have left weaknesses throughout the supply chain from service design, procurement, delivery and then right through to the quality outcomes for the person in receipt of the service.
Cruelty in our care homes is directly linked to UK politicians and social policymakers being obsessed with market competition in health and social care. The horrific case of Winterbourne View is but an example of what is going on and a simple Google search ‘care workers jailed for abuse in the UK’ will no doubt lift a few compassionate eyebrows.
At the end of the day, the government may have the capacity to resource 100,000 tests per day by the end of April. The whole health and care sector having the ability to deliver these 100,000 tests, well that is a different outcome altogether. The government are playing spin with the lives of our NHS and Care Sector workers, instead of sorting the supply chain shambles out.
In the murky world of political spin, the smoke and mirrors of tabloid headlines and the lack of interest for many to scratch beneath the surface, tragically lives will still be lost.
The decisions of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government have determined if a large number of people in the United Kingdom have lived or died. The only similarities between a state of war and tackling a pandemic virus are that when lives are at stake, there is no greater need for accountability. It was this reality and my growing anxieties that I wrote my first blog on this matter on 28th May 2020. The reaction to my first blog on this matter drew both criticism and praise.
Historically governments have stood and fallen by the decisions they made. However, in this era of fake news and an overwhelmingly biased media in favour of the government, it would seem Johnson’s administration is beyond accountability with impunity. In 2016 Johnson’s counterpart in the White House said, ‘I could shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.’ In other words, it does not matter what I say or whatever actions I take my voters will turn a blind eye. I am untouchable. His arrogance is neither surprising nor amusing but a sad reflection on the nation he leads. Likewise, Boris Johnson and his administration is a reflection of my country. Administrations on both sides of the Atlantic shelter in the disconnect between accountability, weak opposition and a voting populous that seem passive in demanding answers.
The UK Government operates as a sponge to public opinion. It continually seeks to weave its narrow ‘populist’ ideology through a maze of bobbing icebergs, tilting, swaying, ducking and diving. It is twitching a message here, making an empty promise there, and deflecting responsibility, while obfuscating in an ocean of soundbite drivel. The government is panicking, in holding its alliances together as it falls into its self-delusion of being a ‘one national’ political party. Paralysed by a Prime Minister terrified at the prospect of being cross-examined by journalists. A senior advisor with a hostile ‘drain the swamp’ mentality towards the civil service, they have created a toxic environment for a healthy government to function.
Trump threatens to withdraw funding from the World Health Organisation. The government in the UK encourages tabloid headlines demanding wealthy footballers take a wage cut to fund the NHS. Yet, the same cabinet of politicians sitting at the centre of this government made up of multi-millionaires as well as drawing down a salary paid for by taxpayers refuse to contemplate any financial sacrifice themselves. It’s all a cynical pantomime, a deflection, but a deflection with deadly consequences.
The media in the UK frequently compares data with the US, Spain and Italy. Those worst affected by the virus, but rarely with other states who seem to be delivering much better outcomes for their citizens. The Johnson administration dodges, but the questions will not go away.
Why is testing capability so inadequate in the UK?
Why is the UK government only publishing death rates from hospitals and not from the wider community, including nursing homes, like Franch, for example?
Why are our frontline staff in the NHS, Care Homes and those providing care in the community not being provided with appropriate protective clothing, but the UK Government can find time to promote a badge?
Why has a government, which branded itself with the ‘taking back control’ mantle continued to allow flights from some of the worst-hit enter the UK without suitable checks?
While our closet neighbour The Republic of Ireland cancelled St Patrick’s Day celebrations and large gatherings of more than 100 people. The UK Government allowed the Cheltenham Festival, large rock concerts and a major sporting tournament to take place on UK soil with a team from one of the worst-hit countries. At the time of writing close to 400 people had died in Ireland as opposed to 12,000 in the UK. If you adjust for population differences, there have been 7.4 deaths in Ireland for every 100,000 people. In the UK, there have been 17 deaths per 100,000.
The State of California, USA, is another part of the world that seems to be delivering much better outcomes for its citizens despite the goon show from the White House. On the 9th March, Santa Clara County banned gatherings of 1000 people, shortly followed to groups of 50 people. Other counties followed suit soon afterwards. California, whose population do not face the extraordinary levels of high-density living, as many UK residents do in our urban cities and towns simply took the threat seriously from day one.
When asked if one day or two can make a difference in the efforts to save lives Dr Neha Nanda, the medical director of infection prevention at Keck Medicine, University of Southern California, replied “Oh yes….even being one day ahead can have a huge impact,” she told the BBC. “the mortality we will be able to avert – it’s huge.”
While nobody knows how this will end for either the UK, Ireland or any other country. One thing is factually at the time of writing. UK citizens are dying at twice the rate as their counterpart in Ireland. Why is this not being reported in our press?