Robert's Weekly Column - 22nd April 2020

Big thanks are due to the overwhelming majority of people here in Swindon for following the Government’s rules on social distancing, in line with the rest of the UK. These measures are working, but if we stop following the guidelines now, we run the risk of increasing the spread of the virus. That is why we cannot change the rules until five clear tests have been met. These are:

  1. We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK
  2. We need to see a sustained and constituent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus
  3. We need to have reliable data from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels
  4. We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.
  5. We also need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelming the NHS.

I have received a large number of emails from residents asking questions about the science underpinning the Government’s approach to coronavirus. Transparency is key during times like this, which is why we have published the evidence behind our approach, provided by SAGE. This evidence can be viewed by following this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/scientific-advisory-group-for-emergencies-sage-coronavirus-covid-19-response

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to join the panel for BBC’s Question Time, where we discussed issues ranging from whether the Government’s support to businesses and the self-employed is going far enough to whether the public should start wearing face masks. I also gave evidence remotely on Monday to Parliament’s Human Rights Committee in a session focused on the human rights implications of the actions taken to tackle coronavirus. During an emergency period like this, it is important that we maintain a balance between tacking the necessary measures to preserve life and the maintenance of civil liberties and the rule of law.

The Great Western Hospital are launching a fantastic ‘Letters from Home’ scheme for families to send letters to their loved ones spending time in hospital. The Hospital have had to restrict visitors during this difficult time, and we all know that being apart from family and friends can be tough at the best of times. Hopefully a letter from family or friends will help make their experience in hospital that bit better.

If you have a loved one in hospital and would like to send them a letter, please email gwh.lettersfromhome@nhs.net or post your letter to: Trust HQ, Great Western Hospital, Marlborough Road, SN3 6BB. Alongside your words and any pictures you wanted to send, you must include the patient’s full name, date of birth and the ward they are on – this will help the GWH make sure that every letter gets to your loved one.