26 April 2020

Earlier lockdown could have saved lives, says shadow minister

26 April 2020

A Labour minister has questioned how many lives a quicker response to the coronavirus pandemic could have saved.

Shadow minister for mental health, and A&E worker, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, said the Government chose to enter lockdown “too late” and that global advice on self-isolation was not followed.

Dr Allin-Khan added that PPE was not delivered to the front line when it was needed and said mass testing and contact tracing should have been rolled out.

“This week on my shift I was working with the family support liaison team and it really gave me the insight to see how this virus has been stripping families of the ability to grieve, of humanity.

“We spend the day phoning patients’ families, and I have been a doctor for many years, but there is nothing more heartbreaking then delivering the very worst of news over the phone, and on some occasions we are able to bring a family member through to say goodbye, but we’re only allowed to bring one person in.

“Imagine that, for a family having to decide who is that individual who is able to go in and say goodbye?

“That is a crippling decision to make and I found myself coming home heartbroken and asking myself how much of this could have been avoided.

“I understand that this is a global pandemic. It would have been impossible to save all of the lives that we’ve lost, but we did enter into lockdown too late,” Dr Allin-Khan said told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

She added: “We did not deliver PPE to the front line when it was needed, we did not follow global advice on self-isolation, and we haven’t rolled out mass testing and contact tracing.

“So when I find myself in the unenviable position of not being able to hug someone as they cry after they’ve said their last goodbye, it makes me think how many of these grieving families could not have had to be in this position?

“And fundamentally we are going to have real mental health issues to deal with for these grieving families, but for the NHS workers who have had to hold their hands through this process.”

Dr Allin-Khan added that the Government must ensure the promise of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April is delivered on “and not simply a promise”, and urged details of what an exit strategy may look like to be released.

“The British public have shown incredible resolve, they can get through anything, but the Government needs to make it slightly easier to ease the pressure on people’s families so that they understand what the easing of restrictions may look like, and that is what the Labour Party is calling for,” she said.

Dr Allin-Khan also urged patients with other serious conditions not to avoid hospital.

She said: “My plea to anyone watching your show today Sophy, would be if you have chest pain, if your child is ill, if you are worried that someone you love has got symptoms of a stroke, please, please go to the emergency department – we are ready and waiting for you.”

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