DiU were joined by a number of organisations on our demonstration to demand protection from airborne transmission for all HCWs. We also received a number of messages of support, including from Diane Abbott MP, the Hazards Campaign, Every Doctor, Prof Trish Greenhalgh, Unite health branch in Nottinghamshire and Prof Raymond Agius. Photos of the protest appear below followed by the messages of support.
Statement from Janet Newsham, Chair of UK Hazards Campaign
The hazards campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work.
UK Hazards Campaign and all its supporters send solidarity greeting to the Doctors in Unite demonstration taking place outside the Dept of Health in London at the same time as our protest outside the HSE in Bootle in the North West England. We agree that the HSE has a legal duty to ensure safe working conditions for all workers, in our hospitals and clinics and across businesses and industry.
Throughout the pandemic, the HSE has failed to ensure that employers in all settings are controlling the infection risks to their staff through their duty to provide suitable and sufficient risk assessments.
They have reacted too late leaving hundreds of thousands of workers infected, thousands left with long-covid and some have sadly died. We know that PPE is the last resort in the defence from an airborne disease and that before it is considered all other safety measure must be put in place to remove the risks, however if PPE is necessary then we expect high quality respirator face masks at a precautionary standard are provided.
We accuse the HSE of being complicit with Government in not ensuring that workers have been provided with these, including in high risk health and social care settings.
Employers, enforcement authorities and the government are responsibility for thousands of needless deaths of workers all over the country by failing to ensure proper air quality in the workplace.
The UK Hazards Campaign will remember all those who have died but we will continue to fight like hell for the living!
We wish you every success on Tuesday and look forward to continue working together in the future. Airborne protection NOW for all workers!
Janet Newsham – Chair of UK Hazards Campaign
Statement by Dr Julia Grace-Patterson, Chief Executive, Every Doctor
16 months after the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and where are we? Still trying to get NHS workers the protection they need to stay safe.
Those early months of the pandemic were chaotic. Some NHS staff were given out-of-date PPE, others had none at all. Thousands of health and social care workers were left at risk; and carried this risk to their patients and their families.
Over a year on, 1,500 health and social care workers have died from COVID-19. At least 122,000 more are suffering from long COVID. And yet NHS workers are still waiting.
This government claims to ‘follow the science’. Well the ‘science’ now is very clear. COVID-19 is an airborne virus. And FFP3 respirator masks are the safest PPE we can give healthcare workers. And by protecting NHS workers, we not only protect these individuals; we also protect their families and loved ones, and their patients too.
All health and social care staff should have access to them – no exceptions, no excuses.
We heard horrifying stories from our community of frontline doctors last year about makeshift PPE. Of staff in GP surgeries and hospitals having to craft their own gowns and masks out of bin bags and sanitary towels, or having to rely on generous donations from local businesses.
Where was the government?
Awarding PPE contracts to companies that were completely unfit, without any transparency or competition, and some of whom had no experience at all in supplying medical equipment.
Alongside Good Law Project, we took the government to court over these shoddy PPE deals. We’re still waiting to hear the verdict, but for EveryDoctor these cases weren’t so much about the judicial outcome itself, but to recognise the sacrifices every one of our colleagues have made in the last year.
One legal victory is never going to solve everything. Our fight to Protect NHS workers is far from over. After 18 months fighting this virus, NHS workers still don’t have the protection they need.
We know that COVID-19 is an airborne virus. But right now the majority of frontline health and social workers are still not being given respirator masks. Government guidelines are still recommending basic surgical masks for the majority of workers.
No amount of clapping or empty words can take away the fears our NHS colleagues still feel when being forced to work in unsafe environments. No one should be forced to work like this, but especially not those who have given their all to care for us throughout this pandemic.
That’s why we’re proud to support this protest today.
Dr. Julia Patterson
Chief Executive, EveryDoctor
Statement from Diane Abbott MP
“I am sorry I cannot be here with you today. But I want to say firstly thank you for all you and your colleagues do and have done throughout this pandemic.
But I am sorry you have been asked to do it. It is the government’s responsibility that you came into this pandemic completely understaffed and underpaid. It was the government which didn’t provide PPE, including the saintly Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary. It was also the government which has allowed so many of you to become ill and die as a result of this virus.
It didn’t have to be this way. In New Zealand and China currently have 40 cases between them, and have had no deaths in months. ZeroCovid is possible. None of this needed to happen.
If £37bn can be wasted on a useless Test & Trace system, why can’t you get a 15% pay rise? If money can be found for renewing Trident, why can’t you all have proper PPE? And if the government is hiring consultants on £1,000 a day, why can’t they hire more doctors and NHS workers? If the NHS vaccine programme is great, why are they intent on privatising the NHS?
Instead, they let Black and Asian people die in huge numbers, while demonising their communities and denying that racism exists.
They must be challenged. They must be opposed, so I am glad that you are doing this today.”
Statement from Trish Greenhalgh, doctor and Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford
This is a shortened version of a video statement by Prof Greenhalgh, which can be seen here https://www.dropbox.com/t/hutkC5mWxinVbx1b
“At the beginning of the pandemic we thought the virus was spread by large droplets and from surfaces. We now know, beyond any real doubt, that the virus is airborne, and that makes it that much harder to protect against it. But it also means that this old classification of aerosol generating procedures, for which you would be given higher grade protection, doesn’t really apply. Because anybody who is look after somebody who has got Covid or might have Covid, really needs to be protected with a level of PPE which protects them against airborne infection, which means a higher grade respirator mask in particular, together with other precautions.
I’ve been working with the Royal College of Nursing, Unite the Union, and many other health and care unions and we’ve been trying to get the rules changed to protect health and care workers, many hundreds of whom have already died from Covid-19. We shouldn’t be putting our front-line key health workers at this risk.
Please support the demonstration organised by Doctors in Unite outside the Dept of Health on 27th July, if you feel strongly about this issue, as I do. Lets hope this is a successful protest and that it changes policy, so that front-line workers are better protected.
Thanks very much and good luck to all the protestors on the day.”
Statement from Jon Dale, Unite Nottinghamshire Health branch
Unite Nottinghamshire Health branch congratulates Doctors in Unite for organising this demonstration. We send our solidarity and full support in the campaign for safe workplaces for all.
NHS workers should decide what PPE is required – not government ministers or cash-strapped management. Safe workplaces need enough workers to do the job – not a skeleton staff working exhaustingly long hours.
The campaign for proper PPE is linked to the campaign for a fully funded 15% pay rise. With united trade union action and solidarity, NHS workers can win and inspire all workers to fight for workplace safety and decent pay.
Statement from Professor Raymond Agius, doctor and Emeritus Professor Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Prof Agius has worked tirelessly to publicise the failure of the government and the HSE to protect people in the workplace from Covid-19
“Sorry I can’t join you in London. Because of my age and gender, I don’t fancy travelling from Manchester by train and then on the tube, especially since the ex-mayor of London has decided to grant the ‘freedom’ of the city to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
However, I have been looking after the health at work of health care workers since 1986 and have been campaigning since March 2020 for them to be provided with FFP3 and other protection against Covid, since #COVIDisAirborne.
So what you are doing today has my wholehearted support.