Years of NHS cuts and Tory mismanagement of the pandemic are slowing down efforts to vaccinate people in one of the areas hardest hit by Covid-19.
That’s what Susan, a vital health worker who is helping coordinate the vaccination programme in east London, told Socialist Worker.
“A doctor I’ve been working with broke down in tears last week,” says Susan. “She was just totally exhausted. The stress of trying to maintain a GP surgery, while also trying to administer a huge vaccination programme was just too much.
“There’s no extra staff to run the vaccinations, and there’s not even extra IT systems. For example, there’s a real shortage of laptops, and many of the computers just don’t talk to each other,” she said.
Susan described a battle health workers face to both deliver vaccinations, and the chaotic scenes in run-down surgeries where social distancing is very hard or impossible to maintain.
“We’ve got 48 hours from when the Pfizer vaccines arrive at the surgery to when they must be injected into patients’ arms. So there’s a huge pressure on turnaround.
“Part of my job is to ring patients and make appointments for them, but often the computer systems don’t work properly. So you have recorded things on paper, but you know that means duplication—and more dangerously, that people can end up getting missed.
Susan says that east London has been terribly affected by the second wave, with a very large number of deaths.
But she pointed out that the rollout of the programme in east London has been very uneven, with some boroughs performing better than others.
“Waltham Forest is not doing so well,” she said. “But it’s not difficult to see why. It has one of the worst ratios of numbers of patients per GP of anywhere in Britain. That’s a long term problem that we are now paying for.
“People in the NHS are so committed to this though, it’s incredible. We’ve got people working their days off and weekends to get this done. Everyone is desperate to save lives.”
But Susan says stretching the NHS will come at a price. Many clinical staff are being moved from services which already have extremely long waiting times onto the vaccination programme.
The result will be that those services will now be even more over-stretched and patient care will suffer.
“What makes me really angry,” says Susan. “Is that we could have prepared for this in the summer.
“The government should have run a massive training programme for people willing to be vaccinators. There are millions of people who would have helped.
“We could have planned the IT that we knew we’d need. But the Tories blew that chance, just like they have messed up everything else.”
Susan is a pseudonym
Coronavirus statistics show the lowest paid are more likely to die
People that work in some of the lowest-paid jobs are at the highest risk of dying from coronavirus, the latest analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicates.
Some manual workers were found to be three times more likely to die of Covid-19 compared with those in highest-paid jobs,
The research looked at 7,961 deaths involving Covid-19 among those aged 20-64 years old between 9 March and 28 December 2020.
It found workers in “elementary occupations” or caring, leisure and other service occupations were dying at a faster rate than other types of workers.
These categories include workers in manufacturing, retail staff, social workers, security guards, care workers and home carers.
The next most deadly occupations were chefs, taxi drivers, bus drivers, basic construction, food workers and local government admin workers.
It’s a description of the jobs that millions of working class people do, often for very low pay.
Men were found to be dying at a rate of 31.4 deaths per 100,000, while deaths of working age women stood at 16.8 per 100,000.
Managers, directors and senior officials were among the groups least likely to die of the virus.
Ben Humberstone, head of Health Analysis and Life Events at the ONS said, “Today’s analysis shows that jobs with regular exposure to Covid-19 and those working in close proximity to others continue to have higher Covid-19 death rates when compared with the rest of the working age population.
“As the pandemic has progressed, we have learnt more about the disease and the communities it impacts most.
“There is a complex combination of factors that influence the risk of death—from your age and ethnicity, where you live and who you live with, to pre-existing health conditions.”
The slaughter of thousands of low paid workers wasn’t inevitable. Many were driven to their deaths because bosses and Tories wanted them back into dangerous workplaces.
It’s no surprise that bosses and the highest paid have been able to keep themselves safe throughout the pandemic.
And those delivering critical services and helping some of the most vulnerable in society, such as working in care homes, or home carers, are some of the most at risk.
The latest death statistics show the brutal reality of a society run for what is profitable for the bosses.