Tooting Labour MP and hospital consultant back on the wards to help out with virus crisis

By Sian Bayley BBC Local Government Reporter

 

Doctor and Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan has been back on the frontline at St George’s Hospital this weekend in the fight against coronavirus.

She said she was “honoured” to be right in the middle of it all in A&E.

She told the BBC’s Local Democracy reporter: “There’s a bit of trepidation, naturally, because I’m hearing from my colleagues that hospitals are intimidating places to be at the moment with regards to the fact you don’t know what the scale of the issue is going to be. I’m sure I’ll have the equipment that I need in A&E, I hope I do.

“I’m also really honoured, that’s my overwhelming feeling. To be able to serve my community in another way as well. I’ve rolled-out lots of measures locally like a Whats App daily update for residents, a Facebook group, a help your neighbour scheme for specific streets. But to serve your community in this way is just a really deep honour. It’s another strand of how one can work for the community.”

But she was worried about the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) being handed out to doctors and nurses across the country.

She added: “The Chancellor, the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have all said that the NHS will have everything it needs but that’s not what I’m hearing from my colleagues on the ground. When they say that the NHS can have everything it needs, we need PPE, without that ,people can’t keep themselves and their patients safe.

“It’s a special mask that you can cover your face that means you can stop particles of the virus going from the patient to yourself. It’s also about having protective clothing when you’re going in to treat somebody that has known COVID-19 as well.

“Why that is so important is obviously not only do you not want to catch it as a health worker, but if you don’t have the right protection and you catch it, you’re obviously spreading it between patients. If you don’t have the protective clothing then you are going from one patient to another.”

She also said that the current rate of testing was “not good enough”, adding: “It is simply irresponsible not to be testing NHS staff. Firstly, they are our frontline defence against the virus. I am glad that daily testing will increase, but this should have been done far earlier to track the virus.

“This is a huge issue and it means that NHS staff could be infecting their families or patients without knowing it. Or it could mean that vital doctors and nurses are having to take themselves off the frontline into isolation for the week, when in fact they don’t even have the virus.

“So this kind of goes both ways because if you self-isolate for 14 days and you don’t have a test, if you feel better after three days and you don’t have the virus you could go back to work. But if you have the virus, you can stay home and protect your family and the wider community.”

She was also critical of some of the measures in the government’s new ‘Coronavirus Bill’ which includes plans to bring retired doctors back into service.

She said: “I honestly feel that we should have had a fully-staffed, fully-resourced NHS workforce in the first place. You are asking doctors to come back who potentially some of them will be in the most at-risk groups themselves, depending on when they retired.

“And medical students need to have the skills they need to do their job. It’s very daunting, it’s not easy, and if they haven’t completed their training, is it safe? These are the questions we need to be asking. How did we find ourselves here in the first place?

“It’s really quite upsetting. These are not party political issues because senior conservatives like Jeremy Hunt, who was the Health Secretary, has also raised these concerns. I’m afraid many of these problems are a result of an NHS that has been underfunded for the last 10 years and the coronavirus crisis has exposed the real world consequences of that.

“One of the reasons we are clearly ramping up testing is because there are so many more patients with the virus. They are still currently only testing people who are sick, so if they are ramping up the testing on those that are sick clearly more are sick. That’s the issue.”

As of 9am on March 19, 2020 there have been 75 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wandsworth, and as of Friday 20 March, 8 patients have tested positive for Coronavirus (Covid-19) at St George’s and sadly died.

St George’s Hospital in Tooting is one of the largest hospitals in the country.

A video released on the hospital trust’s Twitter account last week showed how staff were being taught how to deal with patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, who needed urgent or emergency surgery.

Claire Wohlfahrt, Anaesthetic Fellow, said: “Today we’re teaching the staff how to don and doff personal protective equipment, and we have developed a check list to assist staff in caring for patients that require general anaesthesia.”

Despite the strain in the NHS, Ms Allin-Khan wanted to reassure Wandsworth residents about the situation.

“We are a really resilient community. I believe that together we can get through anything, but I would stress the importance of staying at home, staying safe, not going out unless it is absolutely necessary. I feel the Prime Minister should be more resolute in his messaging. People should not be going to restaurants, bars, pubs, if it is not safe to do so. It categorically is not safe. You risk picking up the virus and infecting others.

“We will definitely get through this. We can get through anything, we’re really resilient here in Wandsworth. The community groups have been amazing. Please don’t go out unless you have to and please be thoughtful of others when you go shopping. It is incredibly difficult for the elderly to get what they need.”

 

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