There are troubling consequences for all of us in this real life satire

The Royal Devon and Exeter hospital

Even before Covid, waiting lists at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital were already appallingly long, writes Martin Shaw - Credit: Archant

Because we’re accustomed to living in an orderly country, it’s difficult to take in the extent of the chaos caused by the current government.  

As we watch Boris Johnson bumbling about, indulging his cronies and barely acting like a prime minister, it can be difficult to take in how much damage they are doing to Britain and to people’s lives. It feels like we’re living in a political satire, but it has real consequences and everyone will pay a price. 

This is most obvious if we think about our health. Our creaking NHS is almost broken and some people are dying as a result. Even before Covid, waiting lists at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital were already appallingly long after a decade of deteriorating funding under the Conservatives. But now many people are waiting years, not months, and lists are getting even longer every week. Ambulances are simply not getting to everyone in time. Ministers are driving GPs out of the NHS by attacking them over the switch to telephone and video appointments - which many patients actually find very convenient.  

It’s easy to say that Covid is to blame, but it’s the government’s irresponsible handling of the pandemic which is making things worse. Vaccines have been a wonderful gift to us all, and now boosters are working phenomenally well. However,  the government foolishly suggested that they meant we could all get back to normal. Abandoning simple protections like masks and distancing, failing to promote ventilation, and general mixed messaging, squandered the advantages which vaccines give us.  

Nationally we’ve continuously had over seven thousand Covid patients in our hospitals, adding that extra pressure which helped tip the NHS into a ‘winter crisis’ even before the summer ended. Dozens of beds are blocked by Covid patients in the RD&E alone. Now the emergence of yet another new variant, from Southern Africa, reminds us that the pandemic is not over and we may all need to relearn the sensible precautions which were needlessly abandoned in the summer. 

Why couldn’t the government have kept masks in secondary schools (and introduced them for junior pupils), invested in ventilation, and told sick children and their siblings to stay at home rather than spreading Covid through whole classes, as has been happening in some East Devon schools? Only a small proportion of children become seriously ill, but is it really acceptable that around a thousand children a month are admitted to hospital with Covid, and some even die? Many of these worst-affected children may already have another condition or disability, but does that make it OK? 

The truth seems to be that the government has accepted that some 50,000 people will die of Covid each year. Indeed, it really doesn’t care much about ‘ordinary’ people, as we can see from its behaviour across the board. Many Conservatives can’t imagine surviving on an MP’s salary of £81,000, let alone normal wages and salaries. They have even less idea about the pressures on people who subsist on Universal Credit, whom Rishi Sunak has robbed of £20 per week. The Tory idea of housing reform is to boost the cost of housing - so that many people in East Devon see rents going up by 10 per cent a year, if they can find a home at all. Their idea of social care reform is to protect the assets of the wealthy, while those with houses worth less than £200,000 may have to sell them to pay for care. 

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No wonder that more and more residents are complaining to local Conservative MPs about their government’s failings. Yet some don’t seem to be able to take the criticism - Simon Jupp has even resorted to blocking constituents who criticise him on social media. They would be wiser to accept that the criticism is only going to grow, and remove their support from a government which is failing us all.