“Two weeks…” was the refrain back in March when the world’s media got hold of the COVID-19 story following the outbreaks of the virus in China, then Italy, at the beginning of what was soon to be labelled a pandemic. “It’s just for two weeks…”
The last parish council meeting I attended was on the 23rd of March 2020. Subsequent meetings have been held remotely and there appears little vocal desire for matters to get back to ‘normal’. Currently, democracy is all but dead, unaccountable, ongoing, (still spending at record rates) reduced to ‘Zoom’ meetings captured and stored on Chinese servers, for safe keeping… …I digress. Within two days (and at no cost to the taxpayer!) my fellow ward councillor and I had worded and put up notices at the local shop and pharmacy to provide our advice based on the governmental advice at that time. A copy of this public notice is shown below. Two weeks later (at high cost to the taxpayer) Kirklees Council gave very similar messages to all households through a mailshot (Councils are very good at some things…).
Those who payed close attention to many news streams relating to the virus prior to the first cases being reported in the UK understood that our Government had a real and pressing public health issue to address and that there were many unknowns – many known unknowns and also many unknown unknowns. The Government announced Draconian measures to ‘Save our NHS’, to ‘Flatten the curve’ and to re-purpose the NHS to gear up for an influx of patients requiring ventilators and intensive care. Scheduled appointments, minor surgeries, major surgeries, cancer care, chemotherapy treatments, A&E services and more would be cancelled and delayed – to ‘save our NHS’.
On 27th of March 2020 I drafted an email to my MP (Jason McCartney), which I eventually completed and sent on the 30th of March. Shortly after sending the email, Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) became one of the world’s most famous chemicals. Why? Because the world’s media engaged in a bizarre and orchestrated effort to explain to people that an off the shelf, cheap, commonly used medication was NOT helpful in the treatment of COVID-19, even though there were medical professionals from many countries who were reporting good results when using HCQ in combination with zinc and azithromycin.
My email asked a numbed of questions relating to abortion services and HCQ. I received a swift response from my MP who passed the query to the Department for Health and a full response from Helen Whately MP, Minister of State for Care arrived some 4 months after my initial query and 3 months, 3 weeks after the peak of the UK COVID-19 epidemic (8th April 2020). I am saddened at the culture and revelations about Government priorities implicit in the response and I’m sure readers will have there own comments about which questions were avoided by the minister, whether the Church of England is or is not a ‘Stakeholder’ in matters relating to welfare of vulnerable girls and women or why pharmacists would override prescriptions (of demonstrably safe drugs in 60 year use) from doctors at the instruction of either the Government or the Royal Pharmaceutical Society…
COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY
Firstly may I pass on my good wishes to you and your colleagues in Government, especially the ailing Prime Minister who deserves the full support of the nation at this most critical time. I, and I am sure the vast majority of the public are fully supportive of the Government in its objective to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people of the United Kingdom and recognise the need for exceptional pre-emptive action and forward planning.
We all hope the need does not arise for the repurposed staff and facilities within the NHS and that fewer people than predicted suffer from the effects of this virus. The government has acted decisively in accordance with scientific advice and many patients who have had scheduled procedures delayed are accepting of this delay in the interests of ensuring that the NHS is best prepared for what we hope does not manifest itself – an inundation of patients requiring intensive care and respiratory assistance.
In the light of all the activity, decisions, new legislation and ‘Lockdown’ on normal civil society would you be kind enough to establish the facts and respond to my following questions:
- On what date was the decision made for the NHS to repurpose staff, facilities and medical centres which currently undertake abortion procedures to make ready for the expected COVID-19 patients?
- What measures have been put in place to counsel women and girls who may not be able to access abortion facilities through the NHS at this time?
- Has the Government called on the Church of England to provide assistance in counselling for such women and girls who find themselves in this situation?
Also, I understand from various sources that successful treatment of the COVID-19 infected patients can be achieved using existing, cheap medication (hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin) and that HM Government banned the export of hydroxychloroquine in February. Early results from trials using these pharmaceuticals in New York indicate positive outcomes such that the President of the USA has already mentioned this potentially great news in his daily public updates. Please can you confirm:
- Whether HM Government has secured sufficient supplies of the drugs hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in case this treatment is found definitively to be effective. (I note FDA approval came on 30th March in the USA)
- Whether Sufficient supplies of these drugs have been also secured for those who currently need them for their existing conditions.
- That management of these drug supplies will ensure they reach those in need and are not hoarded by pharmacies, hospital trusts or other parties and that appropriate oversight is in place to enforce distribution of these drugs if necessary.
I understand that you will be exceedingly busy at this time, but I thank you in anticipation of a reply in due course.
James Dalton 30/3/2020(address supplied)
…………..and the minister’s response……….
Thank you for your correspondence of 30 March on behalf of your constituent, Mr James Dalton of [address redacted], about abortion and hydroxychloroquine. I apologise for the delay in replying.
Public safety and continued access to key services are our priorities during this difficult period. As Mr Dalton is aware, we have put in place temporary measures in England to limit the transmission of COVID-19 and to ensure continued access to abortion services during this unprecedented time. Access to abortion is an urgent matter, as the procedure’s risk increases at later gestations and there are legal gestational limits for accessing services.
I can assure Mr Dalton that we have engaged with abortion providers and stakeholders, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, on this matter, and clinical evidence from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence demonstrates that it is safe for both abortion pills to be taken at home for early medical abortion. I would also stress that safeguarding is an essential component of abortion services, and we expect individual providers to maintain their usual protocols and training. Women and girls will receive the aftercare they need from their provider and have access to a 24-hour helpline.
We are clear that allowing women and girls to take both pills for early medical abortion, up to nine weeks and six days, in their own homes, without the need to first attend a hospital or clinic, is a temporary measure. Access to an early medical abortion is subject to eligibility following a telephone or e-consultation with a clinician. It will ensure that the vast majority of women and girls can continue to access abortion services whilst limiting the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The approval contains a sunset clause; it is time-limited for two years, or until the pandemic is over, whichever is the earlier.
The Government has committed to undertake a public consultation on making permanent the COVID-19 measure allowing home use of both pills for early medical abortion (up to ten weeks’ gestation) for all eligible women. The current COVID-19 measure will be kept in place until the public consultation concludes and a decision has been made.
Work to develop the consultation will begin soon and further details will be available in due course.
With regard to hydroxychloroquine, we appreciate that many patients will be worried about difficulties in obtaining the medicines they need to treat or manage their condition in these challenging times. Mr Dalton can be assured that the Department is doing everything it can to safeguard stocks of hydroxychloroquine for people with Sjogren’s syndrome and other autoimmune rheumatic conditions.
Although hydroxychloroquine has been suggested as a potential treatment for COVID-19, it is not licensed to treat this disease. While the Department and Public Health England have provided hydroxychloroquine to support a number of trials, that stock was not from the normal supply chain so usual stocks should not have been affected. The Department is working very closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement, the pharmaceutical industry and others in the supply chain to ensure that patients who are already using hydroxychloroquine for its licensed indications continue to have access, and that precautions are in place to reduce the likelihood of any shortage. The Department is in regular contact with suppliers to ensure hydroxychloroquine remains available for patients who need it. The Department also shares regular information about impending supply issues and the management plan with the NHS, via networks in primary and secondary care, and will keep patient groups informed about issues affecting specific medicines. The Chief Medical Officer has advised prescribers that medicines should not be used for treatment of COVID-19 unless as part of a clinical trial, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has advised pharmacists that they should not dispense private prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine unless they are for patients with a current need for a licensed indication. This advice will help ensure these drugs are available to patients who need them for their licensed indications, and that as many patients as possible are enrolled into the clinical trials. In addition, there is an export ban in place to protect UK stocks of hydroxychloroquine that are intended for UK patients.
I hope this reply is helpful.
From Helen Whately MP
Minister of State for Care
39 Victoria Street
The Minister’s reply helpfully reinforced my view that our country suffers from having people in key decision making positions who are ill equipped to fulfil the responsibility. When any crisis comes along, real, imaginary or overblown, leaders come to the fore, yet all the UK Government has shown in 2020 since Boris was at death’s door has been a crowded aft. At local level, it was obvious from day one of this crisis that when ’emergency committees’ assembled in the UK – the ‘right people’ were not in the room and those in the room were way out of their depth. Next time the right people won’t be in the room either – and next time the crisis might be a genuine one – unless we change politics for good and rid ourselves of the corrupted and demonstrably incompetent LibLabCon.
I will leave the reader with a question to ponder: How long after the COVID-19 death rate peaked (8th April 2020) did it take for the public wearing of masks to become a Government priority? And no, it wasn’t two weeks…
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file