A Labour shadow mental health minister and frontline doctor has spoken out about the effects of the government’s delayed response to the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking live on Sky News during Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, MP for Tooting, gave a first-hand account of shifts in the Nightingale Hospital in London, as part of the family liaison team.
She phoned patients’ families to deliver ‘the worst of news’ and witnessed the ‘crippling decision’ of allowing one member of the family to come into the hospital in some cases.
‘We had to decide who that individual is, who is able to go in and say goodbye, accompanied by a member of the team like myself.
‘I found myself coming home heartbroken and asking myself: ‘how much of this could have been avoided?”
Dr Allin-Khan blamed the government’s response to the health crisis, such as the delay in entering the lockdown, the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff, of mass testing and contact tracing, as well as ignoring international advice on self-isolation.
She also spoke of the difficult position health workers have been put in as a result, and the lasting effect this will have on their mental health.
‘When I found myself in the position of not being able to hug someone after they said their last goodbye, it makes me think how many of these grieving families could have not had to be in this position,’ the shadow mental health minister said, adding:
‘We are going to have real mental health issues to deal with for these grieving families and for the NHS workers who have had to hold their hand through this process.’
The labour MP said the government has been creating worry among citizens because of not delivering on promises and discussing ‘capacity’ instead of actual tests carried out:
‘So much of the uncertainty is really breeding people to be worried.
‘I firmly believe the government have made grand promises of a hundred thousand tests a day by the end of April. We have to be clear that that is delivered on and not simply promised. We can’t just be talking about capacity.
‘Are we too late? We are three months in to having had our first case.’
Dr Allin-Khan suggested the government should be recording the number of deaths in care homes and in the community on top of the hospital deaths.
This will give an indication of whether the situation is under control and whether the lockdown measures have been efficient – together with analysing other countries’ ideas of how easing restrictions may look.
Sophy Ridge argued that the coronavirus numbers have been very similar in the UK to other countries, to which the MP replied that ‘we should always compare ourselves to the best’.
‘When you look at other countries like Germany, there have been far fewer deaths, they got on top of this much sooner with testing and contact tracing.’