Going forward – have lessons been learned from Lockdown?

High Quality Cards Funny Isolation Lockdown Quarantine Thank you NHS Key worker | eBayOr will the NHS continue to bumble along, desperately needing more funding to keep up with demand?  Where is the politician with the guts to admit we must pay more to keep the NHS properly funded?

Politicians will continue to use the NHS for esy photo opportunities showing  their ‘caring’ side, forgetting it’s the staff who keep it going

Told it may take up to five years to catch up with today’s backlog of canceled treatments, appointments and operations, Britain seems speechless. When I tried to get a covid vaccine, there was no money available to help patients like myself, who need to ask questions before taking a new drug.

NHS staff and others have been brilliant, and last year we were asked to ‘Clap for the NHS’.   Clapping is a PR exercise that wouldn’t pay bills for keyworkers, but it didn’t cost the NHS anything, so Boris Johnson and Whitehall fell on this as a way of saying Thank you without having to dig in to their tight pockets. Today,  those in charge of the NHS are running around like headless chickens, with no thought for those who actually faced the public when needed.

I would have clapped and done cartwheels (if only) for NHS staff and ‘key’ workers’, but knowing how the Government treats the NHS, I preferred spending time and energy lobbying for increased salaries; helping those who deserved our thanks.

Getting back to normal

Britain’s scientists did what they do best when faced with problems, and managed to produce a vaccine in double-quick time.  With the Army involved, and volunteers finally given a meaningful role, the vaccination programme has been a fantastic success.

My hard-working GP phoned me in December offering me an early appointment.  Reminding her of my allergies, side effects, etc., to save time I offered to check if I could take the vaccine, She agreed, saying  “when you find out if you can have the vaccine, come back to me”.

It took over four months of phone calls and emails before, by chance, I managed to finally get an informed answer.  But for me, the final straw was being made to feel it was my fault I hadn’t had the covid vaccine. 

What happens next

In furure, anyone setting up a vaccination programme for millions should set up a department tasked with looking after patients with complex problems, in case they can’t take the vaccine  There are many with complex issues who need answers, but they are not getting them with no-one and nowhere to phone officially.

When I tried to find out if it was safe for me to have thr vaccine, I was on my own.

NHSEngland sent me to 111; who sent me on to 119 – where I had an interesting chat with someone who told me the best vaccine information was on the American Food and Drug Administration website:  fda.org.

However, under her contract with the NHS, she was forbidden to use this website as it wasn’t an NHS one!  No-one seems to have told Jonathan Van Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, this;  on TV the next ni availableght, he twice mentioned the FDA as providing the best information available!

Started on a round of NHS and Government agencies:  Healthwatch, Dept. Health, MHRA, CCG, etc. etc., I became more and more desperate.  Repeatedly told “ask your GP”, even though I said she had asked me to get the info, as she didn’t have time.

No one listened, and no-one could tell me who could help.  I began to sympathise with those who listen to crack-pot theories – what else is on offer?.

Getting desperate

I had visions of myself walking through the streets as in olden days, when Lepers were made to ring a bell, and shout “Unclean”.

Friends could talk about meeting up again, once they had had the jab – but I wouldn’t be able to join them.

I even sent a desperate email to the grandly-titled Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment), one Nadhim Zahawi, MP.  Knowing Parliamentary Protocol I asked my MP to send a letter on my behalf to make sure I got a reply. Two months later there has been nothing from Zahawi- not even a reply via my MP. 

And my MP is strangely reluctant to ask The Minister on my behalf;  this throws up worrying questions about the Government’s handling of the crisis.   

What about others?

There are others who possibly can’t take the vaccine, but we are lumped together as ‘anti-vaxxers’. Has anyone thought that some women might be too embarrassed to display naked arms in an open vaccine hub?  Others might be concerned that vaccines contain alcohol, or have been tested on animals.

All have legitimate questions, but no-one to answer them.

Not the only person who has concerns, I am not surprised that others probably aren’t convinced when told by NHS staff “the vaccine is perfectly safe”.

Do Officials read correspondence? One typical email from Department of Health and Social Care, said  “The NHS website states that you should tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction. ….. I hope this reply is helpful”.

Er – no,  How can I be assured that the volunteer with the clipboard asking me questions in a busy vaccine hub has sufficient medical training?

Frequent emails from me to officials asked please tell me which department can help me?  One reply said  “The Department is unable to comment on individual cases so it cannot assist you directly”  !!!!.

Perhaps we should give officials lessons in reading and understand plain English?

Now why wasn’t I reassured by this, I wonder?

I became fed up explaining to NHS nincompoops that cancer drugs had made me blind in one eye, brought me out in a bloody rash all over my body, given me major heart problems and even wiped out my fingerprints. ( I am working on making use of that little side-effect!),

I got trolled by people saying I should have the vaccine “for the good of everyone else”; so I wrote back to ask if they could guarantee that I wouldn’t lose sight in my other eye, but didn’t receive any replies

Finally – a breakthrough

A business acquaintance kindly phoned to ask how was I?  Had I had the jab?  Laughing this off: I said  “I’ve only waited three months” – and left it at that.

24 hours later he phoned back to ask if I minded him giving my name to someone he knew, who might be able to help.  Then, things moved with the speed of light, and I found myself having a 1/2 hour Zoom consultation with a top NHS vaccines expert, who just happened to be a Nobel prize-winner.

In a fascinating interview, he went right through my allergies and side effects, told me a lot about my medical problems but laughed when I explained when I had a rabies vaccination my only reaction was my teeth itched.  He didn’t have an explanation for that but gave me sound advice about ensuring the medical team did certain things when I had the AstraZenica vaccination (my allergies made Pfizer a definite no-no).

He was also adamant that I had to have the vaccination in a hospital high-risk centre;  I didn’t bother to ask why!

As I had had polio I should have the jab in my legs as these were less affected than my arms, and to possibly prevent problems afterwards, take pain killers before I went to bed.

To add to my incredible luck, he only happened to have gone through medical school with the person in charge of the local High-Risk centre.  So when I arrived I found all the procedures were already in place.

I relied on the kindness of strangers, rather than the NHS, to get me the appropriate vaccine.  I no longer feel ‘unclean’.  But next time, can Matt Hancock or his successor ensure there is somewhere/someone capable of answering questions before we take a new drug?  GPs are ‘general’ practitioners, we shouldn’t expect them to be specialists in a complex area.