At 5pm yesterday I was clapping the NHS in hospital , shortly having received keyhole surgery. I have had good grounds for thanking the NHS over the past twelve months.
As I lay in bed last night I could see through the window building across Southwark and Westminster lit up in NHS blue in celebration of the NHS’s 72nd birthday. The Shard, pictured above, is next door. Its sister hospital – St Thomas’ had its own remarkable tribute from the millennium wheel or London Eye.
For all the governmental and corporate support, this did not feel quite like clap for our carers. It felt a little half-hearted – certainly on social media and even the nurses around me seemed a little taken aback by my clapping.
The NHS needs £10bn of our money to upgrade (it is not broken but it is underfunded and nurses and orderlies are underpaid).
We are not through with this pandemic and the backlog of surgery (of which my problems are part) has a long way to go. Sage are talking of another 28,000 excess death between now and next April, many of which will be because normal testing for cancers have not been carried out. The trauma of these deaths will rest with the people who we have been clapping, their job is not done
Which is why the irresponsible timing for the opening of pubs on Saturday sits so badly with many people (including nurses) . I have already written of the weekend’s follies, which were recorded and posted from Old Compton Street.
But the bylines made by the vast majority of people still trend to “stay safe”. The 65,000 excess deaths since March are very fresh in our memories. We clapped for the NHS as we clapped for our carers, though mindful that we are not quite all in it together.
From the people for the people
Perhaps the difference between clapping for our carers and yesterday’s clap for the NHS was the origination of the clap itself.
This clap was prompted by Government and many may have felt it was a validation of the Government’s behavior. It came at an end of a weekend that had started with a call from our Prime Minister to get out and get drinking, explicitly reminding us that some pubs can let you start at 6am. To me, the messaging was mixed.
Remembering back , clap for carers was, by contrast, a spontaneous movement . The idea originated in Europe before being taken up in London Annemarie Plas , a Dutch expatriate , who promoted a campaign that took place every Thursday evening at 8pm between 26 March and 28 May 2020. It was not a clap for Government but for the people who put themselves in the front line in terms of their own health and well being – so that London and Britain as a whole was not overwhelmed.
Those caring people are still caring and while the PPE has improved and the crisis levels in London have receded, the NHS is still under acute pressure in Leicester , Bradford and many over towns where population density and social deprivation are resulting in spikes of suffering from the coronavirus.
So as I gaze out over London this morning, I am glad of the NHS and of those who are looking after me so well. I was one of 6 procedures carried out by my consultant Mr Nair. Mr Nair is married to another consultant who has worked in ICU during the pandemic. Somehow they have managed to get married since March and I’m pleased that this brilliant couple can remember these months with professional pride and emotional satisfaction.
And for everyone who looks after me in hospital, my hope is that their safety and well being are foremost in people’s minds. It is a relatively easy thing for us to light up a building, stay alert and acknowledge what these people have and are doing for us. It is much harder to spend days in PPE doing the caring. Breaking the rules that govern the containment of the pandemic is not a clap but a slap for carers. Please let us be mindful.