Caroline Clarke: “Boris Johnson not wearing a mask in hospital was really uncomfortable for everyone”


Calmly on November 4, the Covid-19 pandemic reached a tipping point. The first drug for the virus was approved in pill form.

This means people who are most at risk of severe symptoms of Covid-19 can be treated at home, potentially halving hospital admissions and dramatically reducing deaths.

The UK was the first country in the world to give the green light to the oral antiviral drug Lagevrio (molnupiravir). Health Minister Sajid Javid called the drug “a tipping point,” although the news was overshadowed Policeman26 and the fateful voice of the government for protection Owen Paterson – now a former deputy accused of corruption.

Some trials of this treatment took place at Royal Free, a hospital in north London where second coronavirus patient in England was adopted in February 2020. Royal Free became famous during the first peak of coronavirus, after the heartbreaking scenes of his charges were filmed by a BBC documentary Hospital

[See also: “We’re preparing for another spike”: A London NHS hospital chief reflects on the peak of Covid-19]

After bruising 21 months after the first COVID-19 patient was admitted to the hospital, cautious optimism has emerged within its brutal walls of the sixties.

“We’re going out, the fog has cleared,” said Caroline Clarke, executive director of Royal Free London (NHS Foundation Trust), which also includes Barnet and Chase Farm hospitals.

Caroline Clark. (Photo by Royal Free London)

Clarke, 53, an economist and self-proclaimed “NHS worker”, began her career at Royal Free as a finance trainee in 1991 and has headed the trust since February 2019.

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During a video call from her office where colleagues were wearing masks on their computers, Clarke said, “Technically, we are still in a pandemic, but you can see that it is becoming more and more endemic. Antiviral drugs and vaccines will make this disease endemic in more developed countries. ”

However, she warned that the virus “will only become endemic if we continue to take the measures we are taking, such as wearing masks in hospitals, getting vaccinated against Covid and using these new antiviral drugs.”

[See also: Why everyone should watch the BBC’s Covid-19 special Hospital]

I asked if the government should put forward a Plan B for its Covid-19 winter plan. as other health leaders have calledwhich includes mandatory masks, vaccine passports and instructions for working from home.

“I don’t know what the public appetite will be for this,” Clarke replied. “The incidence rate in the communities is still quite high, and people are still worried. Getting out of a pandemic is not easy, and it is quite easy to make mistakes … ”Does it suggest a new isolation? “I would not predict a new isolation, but I am known for my predictions that do not come true!”

However, she unequivocally speaks about the benefits of masks. “Wearing a mask seems like a very smart thing to do,” she said. “We provide this in all of our clinical areas in our hospitals and even in the office space where we operate.”

“For me, wearing a mask in public seems obvious, and I will continue to wear a mask on the subway and all.”

What then did she make of Prime Minister Boris Johnson was photographed without a mask while visiting Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland earlier this week?

Boris Johnson meets with medical staff during a visit to Hexham General Hospital on November 8, 2021 (Photo by Peter Summers, WPA Pool / Getty Images)

“I’m afraid I did [see the pictures], awkward, really, really uncomfortable for everyone, ”she shuddered. “I don’t know what the talk was about, but we continue to demand the wearing of masks for everyone who comes to our hospital.”

Would she tell the prime minister to disguise himself?

“Well, maybe yes, who knows? He was in the hospital a couple of times and wore a mask every time, so I give it to you. This is really interesting: the hospital leadership is against the politicians. It’s really hard. I sympathize with the leadership of this organization. The incidence rate in Northumberland is quite high. “

From Hexham to Royal Free, English hospitals are under tremendous pressure from the record backlog that has accumulated during the pandemic, with 5.7 million people now on NHS health care lines.

Prior to Covid-19, the Royal Free Hospital simultaneously housed 70 to 75,000 patients. Now their number is 100,000 – an increase of more than 25 percent.

The government announced a tax increase “Fee for Health and Social Security”, which will raise funds from next April to help the NHS close the gap. However, Clark is concerned that patients “waiting with anxiety or pain” will not move up the list any time soon – unless there are enough staff to treat them.

“If I had 25 percent more people on my waiting list, that would mean that I need a lot more doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, etc. to clear it. There is a real shortage of personnel, and this is a real problem. “

At Royal Free, the number of vacancies ranges from 8 to 10 percent. All over England one of ten Nursing jobs in the NHS are vacant.

[See also: “It’s very hard to sleep”: Inside the Royal Free London hospital’s second wave – a year since its first Covid-19 case]

“You can’t just fix this problem quickly if you don’t have enough staff to deal with it,” she said. “Can we really change the number of patients waiting fast enough? It worries a lot of people like me. “

Mandatory vaccinations, which ministers have confirmed, will be introduced for NHS service personnel next spring, could also cut staff.

“I’m certainly worried that this could potentially cause some people to leave,” Clarke said. “But we haven’t really seen this in social assistance. [which has mandatory vaccination] for now.”

Overall, she believes the decision will “help” the hospital and calls it a “rather late call” from the government.

As winter pressure a nearby hospital is also encouraging flu vaccinations. Royal Free emergency departments are 25 percent more busy than usual at this time of year. During the summer, about 100 more patients passed through the A&E every day than usual.

Royal Free and Barnet hospitals currently have about 80 Covid-19 patients in beds at the same time, and Clark said they have already reached their peak bed occupancy rate and are currently 98 percent in use.

“It’s not exactly one patient, one patient is missing, but sometimes it feels like that.”

While the beginning of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic phase is just around the corner, hospitals in England are still riddled with the virus’s legacy. When, according to Clark, after “ten years of austerity,” will patients begin to feel the antidote to government funding?


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