NHS Voices

Recovery wants to make sure all voices are heard so the management of Covid is balanced and proportionate.

Many NHS staff have joined Recovery and they tell us that despite the heroism of many NHS workers, incompetent Government and management mean our health service is failing. But staff are frightened to speak out.

This is very dangerous, because without urgent action to fix the NHS crisis now, patients will suffer and many will die needlessly.

Staggeringly, in one of his final acts as Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that there are now not 5 million – but 12 million – people on NHS waiting lists. Add the usual pressures and Recovery fears we will be locking down to save the NHS forever – because every lockdown just makes the long-term problem worse.

If you would like to share your own experience, anonymously, please submit it here.

“I was reported to NHS England for highlighting potentially missed cancer diagnoses… the focus really has been on coping with Covid to the detriment of most other conditions… the waiting list numbers are so staggering it’s hard to envisage how normal services can ever be recovered… we were openly warned not to speak to the press or write anything on social media…”

“I work for NHS England and have been at the heart of the monitoring of the NHS response to Covid right from the very beginning.

There has been a prevailing narrative throughout the last year plus, and no-one openly challenges that.

I tried initially to strike a different tone; as a member of the analytical team with the organisation, I felt it was incumbent on us to provide some balance to the overwhelmingly negative tone coming from NHS senior management. If there are others who felt the same way as me then they played their cards very close to their chest.

After one colleague collaborated in the writing of an article published in the Telegraph back in October, we were openly warned not to speak to the press or write any on social media as this would constitute a breach of policy.

Our media policy says no such thing and indicates actually that we are encouraged to engage in public debate as long as we don’t bring the organisation into disrepute or seek to represent our own opinions as those of the organisation.

Shortly after this I was engaged in a conversation on social media about rising cases of Covid and whether there should be another lockdown (this was in early November) and I quoted some publicly available cancer data showing the current running total of lost referrals and potentially missed diagnoses. In that post I included my job title to lend weight to what I was posting.

Someone reported my comments to the NHS England media team who, rather than verify the validity of the data, and make a comment, set off on a hunt to track down my identity.

The next thing I knew I had a call from my director asking about what I had posted. In the course of that conversation it became clear that someone from the media team had commented to my director about my pattern of social media use, meaning someone had taken the time to look through my timeline and take note of when I was active. My manager also engaged in her own sleuthing going back through things I had posted in an attempt to make a case against me.

It was really shocking and felt like a massive breach of trust. I complained both internally and to the Information Commissioner but my complaint was denied.

After that I was determined to continue to promote the “other side” as I feel it’s important. When even your own CEO is engaging in selective use of data and statistics to promote a one-sided narrative, it is fairly soul-destroying.

The focus really has been on coping with Covid to the detriment of most other conditions. There are some well-meaning people who have worked hard but there is no real strategy in place to tackle the fall-out and the collateral impact on waiting lists that this has had.

It really did not need to get to that point.

My colleague went to work with the Bringing Back Staff team for a few months back in April and May 2020. Thousands of people signed up to return to practice. They were mostly designated initially for the Nightingales but obviously we know those were never used but the staff weren’t then deployed to other hospitals or care settings; most were just let go again.

I have two nurse friends who currently practice outside the NHS but signed up to come back. One’s application never went anywhere past the initial screening stage and the second was deployed to a Nightingale and even issued with all her PPE but was never actually used.

They had MONTHS to prepare properly for the Winter but as soon as the first wave was over, the management went hell-for-leather into recovery mode, setting all these ridiculously optimistic targets for how quickly we could “get back to normal” so when the autumn/winter surge happened the hospitals were already full of elective patients so, of course, they ran into capacity pressure.

There’s a real sense of almost futility about it now. The numbers are so staggering it’s hard to envisage how normal services can ever be recovered.

It has been a frustrating, enlightening place to have been working over the last year but as far as the NHS is concerned it’s all very one-dimensional.”

“The reduction in access for NHS Dentistry must be explained… from 25 March to 7 June Dentists were fobbing off patients and dishing out antibiotics like Smarties…”

“The reduction in access for NHS Dentistry must be explained.

NHSE and PHE forced the closure of ALL dental practices at the end of March 2020 with only a handful of practices able to see patients face to face during early April building eventually to about 600 practices Nationally. It was only on 8th June that all practices could re open and see patients face to face.

So from 25 March to 7 June Dentists were triaging (fobbing off) patients and dishing out antibiotics like smarties under what was billed ‘Triple A’: Advice, Analgesics, Antibiotics. An appalling way to treat toothache but forced by State obsession with Covid. An excessive response not used elsewhere in the world.

Things only improved slightly in June with practices operating under excessive protocols for PPE and the introduction of fallow time requiring surgeries to be tested for an hour after every use of the high speed drill. No science applied and a talk to the band approach from PHE who refused to consider evidence coming from the EU and ROW that fallow time was not required.

NHS practices were only required to do 20% of the activity provided in the same period last year. This ran from July to December 2020. Many did much more than this but the activity included telephone calls so for some activity was exceedingly low.

From Jan to March activity only needed to be 45% and from April to October 2021 60%. All this against backdrop of continued use of excessive PPE and fallow time (although this has reduced in time).

The protocols we operate under deny patients access. Nowhere in the world requires these procedures, they protect nobody.

It is essential pre-Covid protocols return as they have everywhere else in the world. Only then will access recover.”

“I work front line in two areas of the NHS… from March 2020 all previous evidence-based science changed overnight…”

“I work front line in two areas of the NHS and from March 2020 when all previous evidence-based science changed overnight I knew there was a serious issue greater than that of a new strand of a Coronavirus.

Lateral thinking dictates that economic recession damages public health to a far more significant degree than Coronavirus.

The impact in both jobs was instantly recognisable. Protocols became rapidly absurd in terms of accuracy of PCR tests and who was tested and when.

There was an impact on increased elderly suicide attempts due to isolation and loss of hope of normal life.

We had patients die of things they had not sought help early enough for.

Some staff recognised the danger that this had potential alongside a Trojan horse effect to collapse the NHS whilst the Conservative party scapegoated the service to ensure the public complied with non-evidence based measures.

The narrative from our own trust intensified following a huge payout from the government that should not have been received till 2023. Suddenly we were overwhelmed with signs, bulletins and messaged via the internet portal. Other staff virtue-signalled, not recognising the catastrophic harms lockdown caused.

No one seemed to question the weak evidence base for masks alongside incorrect use and continued to promote them despite doing the very same as the public.

Several staff took advantage early on of the isolation policy without need to prove symptoms. This impacted the service greatly.

I have worked for years for the NHS and I’m now ashamed to be there. My mental health has deteriorated as the insanity has unfolded around me.”

“North Tees Hospital discharged patients positive with Covid.”

“North Tees Hospital discharged patients positive with Covid. These patients sat in the corridors, receptions and outside the hospital waiting for buses, taxis, lifts etc.

There was a process in place from late summer/autumn but not followed or known by staff.”

“The NHS is being used to frighten people and hold them hostage in their own homes… we are supposed to be there to help working class people, not wave a finger at them and police every aspect of their lives.”

“In my experience, Public Health Wales has been almost completely side-lined.

The government have taken almost complete control of pandemic response with confusing, arbitrary edicts with barely any supporting evidence to back them up.

I feel awful about how the NHS as an organisation is being used to frighten people and hold them hostage in their own homes.

This isn’t universal provision of healthcare – we are supposed to be there to help working class people, not wave a finger at them and police every aspect of their lives.”

“I’ve worked as a GP in the NHS since 1986. I have seen only a handful of patients with serious Covid symptoms but hundreds of patients suffering due to lockdown. Cancers diagnosed too late, heart disease due to delays in tests and treatments. Mental health issues in all ages. Care home patients not allowed visits. Toddlers bedwetting due to stress. The list is endless. This is no service. It’s a disgrace.”

“I’ve worked as a GP in the NHS since 1986. I have been horrified at the way the government have handled the pandemic. Stopping me seeing my patients face-to-face overnight has been a nightmare for me and my patients.

With no training as managers retreated to working from home, no laptop for me to work from home, poor IT systems which weren’t fit for purpose, and weren’t up to telemedicine and elderly patients unable to cope with video consultations or sending photos in, and difficulty hearing on the phone.

I have seen immense suffering in so many groups of people entirely due to lockdown.

I have seen only a handful of patients with serious Covid symptoms but hundreds of patients suffering due to lockdown.

Cancers diagnosed too late, heart disease due to delays in tests and treatments. Mental health issues in all ages. Care home patients not allowed visits. Toddlers bedwetting due to stress. The list is endless.

My dad died alone in a care home as I was banned from visiting at all.

I have written to Matt Hancock, Boris, Helen Whateley, my MP. No answers or just a standard reply. I’m on the verge of resigning.

Still not able to see many patients face-to-face because of social distancing meaning only two allowed in waiting room. I despair. This is no service. It’s a disgrace.”

“Covid took precedence… this led to unnecessary deaths. I tried to raise concerns but was given many verbal warnings, pulled into the offices and spoken to about going above my pay grade and whistleblowing… my family member has a terminal cancer diagnosis… his specialist told him this could have been avoided. “

“I have been working in the NHS for many years and always loved what I do however the last 18 months has shown me that patient care isn’t at the forefront.

I specialise in Neurology, working with pre-op and post-op care however the amount of patients in my department through the last 18 months has been way below the expected rate, the reason for this was because Covid took precedence so those patients who needed neurological treatment were pushed lower. The beds were minimal, most of my shifts had me working with up to 5 patients maximum.

Sadly this also led to unnecessary deaths.

I tried to raise my concerns but was given many verbal warnings, pulled into the offices and spoken to about going above my pay grade and whistleblowing.

Personally I know that other departments suffered because a family member of mine was due to have an appointment with a specialist due to a tumour found. This appointment was cancelled and the waiting time for a next available appointment was way off. My family member now has the diagnosis of terminal cancer and will heartbreakingly lose his life. His specialist told him this could have been avoided.

Given this, I handed in my resignation and will be moving on.

I certainly don’t feel like a hero, I feel like a failure.

I feel that our roles are vital but too many patients were failed when they shouldn’t have been.”

“In its impact on mental health provision in this country, Covid strategy has been a moral disgrace… we have enacted by diktat a serious moral failure of state, impacting the most vulnerable people… I am deeply ashamed to have been part of it.”

“I work in mental health in England. The last year has been the worst by far of my entire career. This has not been because of Covid itself but because of the obsessional focus on Covid related risks at the expense of all else.

I strongly believe that the public health interventions we have had to implement have caused severe, avoidable, harm, and that we have enacted by diktat a serious moral failure of state, impacting the most vulnerable people.

There has been no strategy to mitigate these harms and no voice for those who seek balance.

For people with severe mental health problems, the pandemic has exacted an unjustifiable toll in terms of missed contact with clinicians, the inability to undertake accurate assessment and meaningful intervention over video, impaired access to justice via the tribunal system operating remotely and, most egregiously of all, impaired access to primary care, when we know that this population has significantly reduced lifespan and higher physical morbidity.

The willingness of mental health and primary care clinicians to ‘down tools’ with full permission of management has led me to question the fundamental moral grounding of healthcare.

I have no faith that the harms suffered by people with severe mental illness will be given due witness in a public inquiry.

In its impact on mental health provision in this country, Covid strategy has been a moral disgrace. I am deeply ashamed to have been part of it.”

“I’ve been a paramedic for seven years… the lockdown backlog has risen to impossible levels and I cannot see how any service in the area will cope come winter. I honestly think it will come to the point where there is simply no treatment available and patients suffer quietly at home whilst waiting or simply die: this won’t be the very elderly but the younger and fitter who are just told ‘no’…”

“I’ve been a paramedic for seven years and have worked on ambulances as well as in walk-in centres and out-of-hours services.

The Covid restrictions have meant that there is an enormous backlog of patients who still need to be seen. Last summer this was bad enough but after the second lockdown over winter it has risen to impossible levels.

The local A&E has sensibly stopped seeing minor problems and instead sends them down into the main part of town to the walk-in centre. This is something that should’ve been done before Covid but wasn’t done due to excessive caution. Covid has forced a lot of managers’ hands and they are now implementing things that should’ve been done years ago.

The problem is that the walk-in is now inundated and twice in the last week it has closed its doors to new arrivals: the first time at 1200hrs and the second at 1500hrs.

To put this in to context it opens at around 0800hrs and shuts at 2200hrs. Patients have now gone all the way to A&E, been turned away, gone back to town and been turned away again. They then ring their GP in the (very) faint hope of booking an urgent same-day appointment. As these vanish within the first thirty minutes of opening they are turned away by the GP too. Having now tried three different places they end up ringing 111 again and booking in with the out-of-hours. We are doing alright at the moment but we don’t have much slack and on a normal evening we have three GPs and a paramedic/nurse for a city of around 200,000. This is manageable in part because people can usually get to the walk-in during the day.

All this needs to be seen in the context of Covid now being at insignificant levels in terms of deaths and hospitalisations and before the inevitable wave of lay-offs come September when furlough ends. This latter event will I feel almost certainly lead to more drinking, drug-taking and mental ill-health. The city in which I work is not a particularly happy one and obesity, drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness are serious problems and probably worse than when I lived in London.

I cannot see how any service in the area will cope come winter. I honestly think it will come to the point where there is simply no treatment available and patients suffer quietly at home whilst waiting or simply die: this won’t be the very elderly who would likely die fairly soon anyway but the younger and fitter who are just told ‘no’.

I am not, of course, dismissing the elderly but this group frequently die whilst waiting for treatment in a normal year simply because they are old and suffer a heart attack or stroke whilst waiting for a hip replacement. I am worried about the middle-aged with families whose cancer is missed or the workman who needs surgery to work and is self-employed.”

“I volunteered for the Nightingale Hospitals but was never needed, yet I’ve watched patients become so unwell due to being too frightened to come into hospital or due to treatments being delayed…”

“I’ve been a nurse for ten years and now work as a specialist in heart failure.

At the start of Covid we had to suspend all outpatient services, a few of my team stayed to perform telephone clinics and man the phones for patients but the rest of us went up to the wards.

We created a new coronary care unit staffed by specialists so that the current unit could be turned into high dependency to allow it to take more ventilated patients.

I spent a couple of shifts sat in this empty ward until it was decided we would go back downstairs until needed. We were never needed.

At one point, for at least four weeks we had two wards closed as they were empty.

We quickly went back to seeing heart failure patients as they were becoming sick. Even though we weren’t supposed to see them face to face, these patients needed us.

I kept waiting for the wave to come.

I volunteered for the Nightingale Hospitals but was never needed.

I became sceptical about Covid when our cardiology ward which had many patients awaiting bypass surgery or in with very poor heart functions became closed due to a Covid outbreak.

Half the patients and staff tested positive. None had symptoms and none required oxygen or intensive care. Some of these patients had heart functions of less than 30% and would be extremely vulnerable. The same thing then happened on the stroke and elderly care ward.

How could these people not get sick from this “deadly” virus?

I’ve watched patients become so unwell due to being too frightened to come into hospital or due to treatments being delayed.

This year our theatres cancelled all ops between January and March just in case Covid cases soared. They never did. Why were we delaying treatment for current conditions ‘just in case’ people became sick with a virus?

I’m disgusted to say many colleagues have enjoyed this. The quietest year I’ve ever known in an acute hospital. And I’ve seen them writing about this tough year or enjoying congratulations from the public on social media. People who have been in the exact same situation as me, so I know first hand they haven’t had it tough!

When I say this people ask why they’d lie. But the truth is some doctors and nurses enjoy the drama and enjoy being hailed as heroes.

Why would I lie? I love excitement in my job and would have thrown myself in to working on a Covid ward to help. But I wasn’t needed.

And these colleagues bend the truth to look like heroes whereas I am telling the truth about being bored and hating doing ridiculous amounts of filing as there’s nothing else to do. Why would I tell people I’ve been sat on my arse for month during a pandemic if it wasn’t true?

And when it comes to Covid rules it’s all ridiculous. My boss tested positive, I sit around 30cm from her five days a week. Our office has been deemed ‘Covid safe’ so we don’t wear masks, we share food, we carry on as normal behind closed doors. Yet I was told as we are ‘Covid safe” I do not need to isolate after her positive result!

How does this make sense? I’m so disgusted with the NHS and I no longer feel proud to be a nurse. However I love my patients and I will continue to do my best for them.

I could go on for so much longer but I feel sad thinking about it. And anyway, who will listen?”

“Poor process meant many clean wards became infectious as patients were moved before test results back… Track and trace app forbidden in the hospital for fear of whole teams isolating…”

“Throughout the pandemic the guidance on PPE changed several times, not for our safety but due to supply and what was available at the time.

Rest rooms and canteen occupancy was cut by 75% and it was weeks before they opened up any other places to have lunch (one was the morgue!).

People went outside to eat and were disciplined for not being distanced enough. I saw other nurses perched on window ledges in the corridor trying to eat.

During the heat of the summer fans were banned and people were fainting and dehydrating due to being wrapped in plastic. Water bottles were banned from the wards also.

On the wards was bedlam, no distancing with staff at all, I regularly looked up to find myself surrounded by more than a dozen doctors, nurses, physios etc. We were told the matrons would deal with it. Never happened.

Track and trace app forbidden in the hospital for fear of whole teams isolating.

Poor process meant many clean wards became infectious as patients were moved before test results back. Management answer was ‘wash your hands.'”

“I work in a specialist cancer centre. I have seen patients pulled off chemo regimens half way through or not started on them at all because of Covid… the cancer tsunami that is coming will make Covid look like a walk in the park…”

“I work in a specialist cancer centre. I have seen patients who have been pulled off chemo regimens half way through or not started on them at all because of Covid. Unsurprisingly their cancers have progressed and in some cases they are now sadly palliative.

Lots of late diagnoses are now coming through – patients that would have been curable are now terminal. Lots of DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) forms in patient notes that would never have even been discussed before this mass hysteria took hold.

They think Covid was bad? The cancer tsunami that is coming will make Covid look like a walk in the park. I will never forgive so many in the NHS being so complicit with this fear propaganda.”

“Patients were too afraid to come into the hospital in case they caught Covid. I blame this on the Government’s fear campaign…”

“I work within the diagnostic radiology department of an NHS hospital. I have personally witnessed delays to patients getting a scan due to Covid 19 polices.

Some patients had their (considered to be routine) scan cancelled or postponed – presumably therefore delaying any potential treatment.

Other patients were referred for an urgent scan, and they refused or postponed it themselves, as they were too afraid to come into the hospital in case they caught Covid.

I blame this on the Government’s fear campaign – some of these people with worrying symptoms may have had cancer, which could be more treatable if detected earlier. It was speaking to these people that reinforced my growing suspicion that the lockdown was doing more harm than good.

Furthermore, due to a change in process in the way X-rays were booked (again due to Covid), more scans were delayed.

I remember scrolling through numerous overdue requests, each one a person, a life, with interests, loved ones a future etc. I was very concerned and I raised this with managers several times and was constantly told it was all being sorted out – the backlog was being worked on, new staff were being employed to help etc.

I now regret that I naively allowed myself to be fobbed off with this ‘reassurance’.

I have no idea of the numbers of people affected or what happened to them, but in dark moments I think about the people who perhaps suffered and died/are dying due to Covid polices and fear tactics, and wonder if I spoke to them or saw their name on a computer screen and if I could have done more.”

“I was seething when I learnt the George Cross had been awarded to the NHS. We, the glorious NHS, did f*** all to save the nation. We did the only thing we know how to do when demand for acute care increases – we cancelled electives. We turned into effectively a Covid-only service.”

“I was seething when I learnt that the George Cross had been awarded to the NHS. I have every respect for Her Majesty, but she was ill-advised on this occasion (I understand that it’s awarded on advice of PM, so really, it’s a political statement).

In fact, it’s an insult – to every one of the 12 million patients on NHS waiting lists, to every grieving child who was denied contact with their dying parent. It’s a smack in the face of every single woman forced to labour on her own until she’s in established labour (many women never get there, most often those with particularly traumatic deliveries or emergency C-sections, we’re not talking small numbers, that’s at least 20% of births).

We, the glorious NHS, did f*** all to save the nation. We did the only thing we know how to do when demand for acute care increases – we cancelled electives. We turned into effectively a Covid-only service.

We don’t deserve an award for this. We now have no collective clue what to do with electives now. So we prioritise them and just keep them there.

Realistically, priorities 3 or 4 may never get treated with current demand from cancer and priority 2s. A significant proportion of low priority patients are on gynaecology waiting lists – never quite life-threatening, first to cancel under pressure.

We have patients living with vaginal prolapse that requires surgery for over a year. This is despicable situation and absolutely no one in ‘our NHS’ has the faintest clue how to face it.

Our local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) has recently come up with a splendid initiative: ‘Waiting well’ – they will be employing a small army of staff to make long waits more bearable for patients. It would be a joke if it wasn’t so scary.”

“It’s a month to wait for patients to receive a phone call from a doctor at our GP surgery… three months – at best – bloods investigation service… then if you need a referral to a hospital, well who knows, but good luck…”

“It’s a month to wait for patients to receive a phone call from a doctor currently at Hamilton Medical group in Aberdeen.

Then once they ask you to come in, a week later if you’re lucky, you’ve to make another phone appointment – a month’s wait for a call to potentially get blood results.

This is unbelievable – three months at best bloods investigation service for a GP service.

Then if you need a referral to a hospital, well who knows, but good luck.”

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