from Brighton, UK – John Trounce

Retired pediatrician

29 March. Well it’s just gone 8am – or 7am in yesterday’s “money” – and there’s a chilly north wind telling us that the weather Gods forgot that it’s now British Summer Time. But despite that I’ve still managed to get a bit hot under the collar. 

After firing off yesterday’s little contribution I watched Question Time on the i-player. Clearly Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, was equally exercised describing the Government’s responses (or lack thereof) to Covid-19 as a scandal. But what really got me was the response of Robert Jenrick that they were now providing all the equipment needed (only a month late Bob) and when challenged totally denied that the Government policy was transiently to encourage infection to 60% of the population creating herd immunity. We all know that was the case. Why don’t MPs ever admit they got something wrong, why don’t they ever apologise , why do they lie to us? Surely it’s counterintuitive and we would respect them much more if they acknowledged the occasional human frailty.

Then I hear on the early news that BJ is writing to every household to tell us to behave ourselves and stay indoors or something similar…at an estimated cost of 5 million quid. Surely most of us are and the recidivists will pay as little attention to BJ’s letter as BJ’s dad did to the dictum to avoid pubs. I can’t help feeling we could have spent that dosh more judiciously and not to mention replacing all the trees.

Anyway I’d better go and take the blood pressure tablets before I have a stroke….’cos there sure won’t be a bed for me at the hospital.

28 March. Medical Final exams are stressful enough at the best of times – which these aren’t – and sadly covid-19 sticks its knife in. Having done their OSCEs (objective structured clinical exam to the uninitiated or in basic demotic “the practical”) my daughter and her peers have their written papers starting on Tuesday gone. Seems an age ago but that was “lockdown day”. So  a text at 10pm the night before tells the insomniac students that the exam is off. No details on a replacement or anything else. Five years of study, weeks of intense revision peaking at the right time they all hope and suddenly an anticlimax and uncertainty. In Aintree speak (another covid casualty) this was no ordinary hurdle but Becher’s or The Chair – fall badly and it could be fatal. They’ve now been given dates for an online exam next week but most have lost all motivation to revise further. By all accounts the goal will be to pass as many as possible – the country is desperate for more doctors and even a fledgling as green as a spring leaf is better than nothing. But she’s ambivalent she tells me – partly the pressure and demand of starting your first post in the height of a pandemic and secondly quite simply because the young are at risk albeit to a lesser degree than us geriatrics but death is not unheard of. Indeed today the 50th doctor has died in Italy and we’re just two weeks behind them. Of course I hope she passes but a bit of me would prefer that in a resit a month or two hence when maybe things will be a bit more settled…or maybe not. 

Much has been made of our clapping and banging our saucepans to thank the NHS staff and carers – a warm gesture indeed. But how much more they would have appreciated masks, gowns, visors and appropriate testing far quicker than it’s all materialising. Nine days ago on Question Time Matt Hancock issued reassurance that all staff would have the protective gear by the end of last weekend – if only! How come Johnson and Hancock can get tested and a result within 24 hours of symptoms whilst health workers are simply told to lump it at home for a fortnight? But there is a theme with the Tories and public services – warm words but little more. The courage of the police (and Theresa May cuts their number), the firemen of Grenfell and the health workers’ commitment and exposure to risk. But the only group worthy of a good pay rise was……11% for the MPs. Money isn’t everything but I’d like to propose that in acknowledgement for their efforts no nurse should need to resort to a foodbank.

23 March. I’m due a blood test this week. Thinking the arrangements may be changed I ring the Polyclinic – “yes, still functioning as normal”. “Do you mean it’s still open access?” I ask someone against my expectation. “Yes, open access…” she jauntily replies “….for the time being” added almost as an afterthought. So restauarants, cafes, shops, National Trust sites, sports stadia are closing en masse but you can still toddle along for a blood test. Almost by definition this is a vulnerable group with a health problem either acute or chronic and in my experience you can expect to wait packed closely together for well over an hour. Surely it would be more logical to resort to an appointments system (which is how it used to run) and simple to reinstate. Do I need to go to Specsavers or is this nearly as short-sighted as downgrading the WHO recommended protective wear for NHS staff and even then not providing enough? Anyway it’s decision time and I’m going for mid-week as potentially the quietest and thank God the weather is better so I can at east go outside and wait alongside  the fag smokers. Another good reason for social distancing. I know it’s only March but surely that’s a hot tip along with corona or corvid as word of the year 2020. Or maybe it’ll all be distant memory by December.

22 March. For starters, I could let rip re my 7am trip to Sainsbury this morning for the geriatric and vulnerable hour – naively half-expecting to be wandering as lonely as a cloud (Wordsworth) but they were already queuing right across the car park on my arrival. And there were several shoppers who were either incredibly well worn for 70: ie they looked about thirty and a few even had young children or the vulnerabilities were well hidden. And then to boot loads of shelves were empty. The bloke on medicines told me he hadn’t seen paracetamol for two weeks!!! That really annoys me as it’s NHS recommendation and we’re constantly told “there’s enough of everything” by Boris and his mates. How therapeutic to get that off my chest.

22 March. I never thought I’d be saying this but I was glad of the arthritis this morning. Unbeknownst till my arrival Waitrose reserved the first half hour for the fragile crocks aka old and vulnerable. Indoctrinated from a young age never to fib I had to deny being over 70 but like the best of strikers (football lingo) I netted the rebound and got in on the arthritis card. Brilliant – only about twenty of us in the store (but I still sneeringly wondered how a few young and fit looking shoppers managed to get past the bouncer). Anyway shot round, got the free newspaper and first on the coffee machine….out by five past ten, never done that before. What a contrast to the rabble at Sainsbury on Thursday. Notwithstanding under-reporting, still only 17 documented cases in Brighton and Hove so far but the dilemma will be if and when to start fighting for an online slot as things escalate which they surely will. ….worry about that later but for now it’s The Observer and a cuppa coffee in the spring sunshine.