The independent London newspaper

Our health, housing and education crises predate Covid

21 January, 2021

‘It took a worldwide pandemic to shine a light on the problems that have been festering for years’

THE anguished cries from NHS workers during the pandemic has struck a tone with the public, and the government, who have been forced to pump billions into the health service.

But long before Covid the majority of hospital workers will have felt the strains of mental and physical exhaustion from long shifts, low pay and feeling undervalued by management as they struggle to meet demands of an overwhelmed unit.

Patients will also have experienced the despair of delayed or cancelled appointments in an NHS already pushed to breaking point.

Health secretary Matt Hancock, in the week before the last general election, stood outside the Royal Free making inaccurate claims about the numbers of nurses at the hospital during austerity years. The NHS trust took the unusual step of correcting him.

He, like his predecessors, made the argument of “record levels of investment” to counter accusations the public sector was on its knees.

The public has now become accustomed to ministers’ cherry-picking, manipulating and at times downright lying about the situation from their television podiums.

This has been evident with the claims about the vaccination programme and predictions that non-Covid patients would continue to be seen through this deadly winter wave.

The family of David Wright, whose heart surgery has been cancelled because hospitals are so stretched, begs to differ. It may be months before theatre space, and a recovery bed, is available for him, (Heart operation man is told hospitals have run out of room, January 21).

All has not been well for a long time. The paper this week is full of issues that pre-date, but have been intensified by, the pandemic.

Council budgets were brutally cut back long before the pandemic. Fees and cuts at Hampstead Heath have been talked about for years. Student finance was a mess already.

Food poverty was rife, but few cared to look. The levels of hunger in our borough – 16,000 are now eligible for free school meals – is quite extraordinary.

The use of foodbanks was already growing at an alarming rate. Schools were on the brink; poorer pupils suffering from a technological divide.

Developers had been allowed to weasel out of affordable housing commitments long before this week’s attempt by Essential Living at 100 Avenue Road. Covid has become the latest trump card in the pack for those negotiating planning regulations.

It has taken a worldwide pandemic to truly shine a light on the problems that have been festering in society for years.

It is not just because of Covid that we are where we are. Politicians need to accept that, otherwise those problems can only get worse.

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