INNOVATION AND THE COMMON MAN! YES, WE CAN NOW TALK FACE/FACE WITH THE PEOPLE WHO PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE DELIVERY DIGITAL INNOVATION.

We give a long overdue and welcome to the upcoming HETT Show, taking place on 28-29 September, at the Excel London, as an essential platform for our UK digital healthcare providers. 

The HETT Show (www.hettshow.co.uk) – as the Uk’s leading health event, opens its doors in a couple of months. The HETT Show is one of the first serious events to greet us all, in person, and it is like when you have to hand your courtesy car back at the end of the day when your usual vehicle is being serviced. “No, I don’t want to go back to my old car, thanks! I prefer the new shiny one you lent me instead.” 

Because – let’s face it – face-to-face events are the perfect place to gain insights and network. We miss the being there. And now we are back. Yes, we can indeed keep the courtesy car with the new number plates, after all. We can now justifiably drive off, and talk about Innovation.

HETT believes that innovation is the sauce that will empower the workforce in our hospitals and surgeries. The Show promises to herald a “new era of transformation”. And indeed it may well do so, for two surprising reasons. First, we are indeed, so fed up with the isolation of the past 15 months, it was fun in the beginning, true – but not now. And second, the success of any Innovation roll out, depends on precisely this, the motivation of the individual, to get up and actually “do something”.  

It is a realisation that if Innovation is to deliver for the common man, the patient, then this is not a technology process, but a human experience process, that involves all of us, at each individual level in the workplace. And for that single reason, HETT has a unique advantage, it is first, in bringing us all together. 

Over the past year and more, there have been significant differences in quality of care and even interest in delivering quality care, geographically throughout the UK. We see HETTshow (www.hettshow.co.uk) as an opportunity to re-examine where we are, and to meet people who can help this journey. 

We will be publishing a Series of Case Studies of those Hospitals and Surgeries who have made Innovation work for them in the past year, despite all the odds. At a time when queues and delays for procedures are at an all-time high, this is a clear moment to get back on track.

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DIGITALISATION; HERE’S AN IDEA YOU MIGHT LIKE!

Does success in “becoming digital in our workplace” mean we are all techies?”  We interview Katie Trott, Chief Nursing Information Officer at the Royal Free Hospital, Uk, fresh before her HIMSS Discussion on 8th June, to see how they do it at her Hospital.

I am sitting in my office – I pick up the phone, and I call Katie’s Hospital, and the Reception immediately connects me, there is a sound of some children in the background, and then I realise – Katie is at home, this is her mobile line. 

“I’m sorry”, she says, there is a hint of amusement in her voice “I have the kids at home”.  No matter. And so I get straight to the point – you have been responsible for some major large clinical tech initiatives in your past – does this mean you have a technical background?

“No, “ she says immediately. “But I do know how to wire a plug”.

This is all going well.

So we start again, and you could say it gets worse. When Katie started in the NHS as what  was then a Nurse Auxiliary, at 16yrs old – there was no discussion of technology per se for people at the front line. Patients were patients and treatments were treatments. Katie’s background is clinical. It just so happened, like so many chance encounters in life, that she was rather good at explaining to patients and colleagues “what was going on”.

This facility to communicate, to bring things back to their essential levels, has been the secret sauce of what – looking back – has been a step by step process over the years, ie, the innate ability to communicate benefits and to lead others into new pastures. As clinical care has inevitably needed more and more clever toys  and cool IT, so somebody has to engage with the people who have to make it all work. At the Royal Free, under her direction, they delivered a new EHR in just 11 months.

Katie is self-deprecating; “I was just in the  right place at the right time” she says. “We sort of made a decision that we need to do this or that, and then sort of figured it out as we went along”. Clearly this is not true – but what is standout is the motivation to go forward – even though at the time, you might not be sure of what that “forward” can actually deliver.

And it has created some changes in attitudes.

“When I first got into delivering digital or clinical solutions, the mindset was definitely that “big is better”. If we want to do something else, we just got some velcro and stuck on a new module”. But our view now has changed to  scaling down, and adopting “best of breed”, a sort of FHIR approach, for the specialist areas that have specific needs.”

Katie continues; “Perhaps I was naive, but I remember when I first started, I thought that fast means better, that you just plug new solutions in. But over time, I discovered the benefit of taking it step by step. That testing and safe empowerment is a process. Sure, we can plug it in, – but everyone needs to be involved before we go play”.

What it seems is that there is a shift in areas of influence. The clinical demands of patient delivery , are becoming the driver of the IT requirement, as opposed to the other way round, And that IT per se, may not understand the clinical needs it is trying to address.

Two things are  becoming clear – and that tie in with what we have seen from other NHS Leaders that we have talked to.  That success in digital delivery, depends on the individual, and not being scared of appearing to be the idiot. It is a phrase that Katie uses a lot in our discussion – and  also the recognition that we are every day in a brave new world, and we have to sort it out.

It is time to end our discussion. We could talk for much longer, but Katie is at home, and there are noises in the background.

THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

We talk with Dr Minesh Patel, Partner at the Moatfield Surgey in the UK, and ask – how come they are so good at delivering healthcare for the common man?

Why is it in the UK NHS, that there are good surgeries, and not so good ones, and well, rank awful ones? Why are some standout – and others not so? If human nature is a common denominator, why are there not a set of standard rules, a sort of “go to guide for repairing a surgery”, a recipe book for getting it right, that we all can apply, and that’s job done? And if human nature is indeed the common linking factor, – does this explain why some surgeries are so terrified of change? And others embrace it.

At a time when “innovation”, and “digitalisation” are this year’s buzzwords, can these be imposed by some higher authority – “look, here’s some money, go and start this or that process?” – And if that is the case, then why do we not all have standout surgeries?

The answer is that my human nature, is not your human nature. In short, the success of a surgery, depends on the individual, and the mix of individuals, in each case. You’ve got to “want” to be innovative, to deliver excellence. The only question is whether this is nature at all – or nurture, can we “learn” to be innovative?

Minesh Patel hesitates as he answers this one. In his case, there was never much choice. His father was a doctor, his own daughter is a student doctor, so this is a family tradition so to say, The choice of working in a hospital, or running a surgery, was the freedom to improve and innovate given within a surgery, but it was a journey, taking in improving PCT performance, being Chair of a CCG, leading the clinical strategy development of a developing iCS, before settling and developing the Team at Moatfield, in East Grinstead.

Minesh readily admits that he cannot change or improve everything. Sometimes, the structures themselves do not lend themselves to change. And health inequality from one region to another, one person to another, is a life reality. Having said all that – is there a “process”, an attitude of mind, that is the difference , and what would be the roadmap for other surgeries to follow?

“The answer is little steps, all the time”, answers Minesh.

“At Moatfield, we have a daily huddle, we analyse all of our processes, and we act quickly. Our new website took just 4 days of re-tooling. We are not afraid to act if we believe in something” Minesh uses the word “innovative” a lot. 3 years ago, he became Chair of the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), which he says has brought him into contact with a lot of like minded and talented people around the country, both within other surgeries and other providers, who are beacons of excellence, and who are learning from each other. It’s a case of seeing “what are the neighbours doing”. so to say. But it is also visionary.

Although we are talking about the daily routine, there is a focus also on the wider picture, why can’t we do things in a different way.

We are getting ahead of ourselves in the discussion.

As if on cue, I look at my watch – we have been talking for 29 minutes. “I’m really sorry!”, Minesh says…. “I have a patient call in a minute”

CAN MUSIC MAKE THE WORLD GO ROUND?

We talk with Andrew Given, Development Director of the English National Opera company in London, about the new ENO Breathe project that has taken both healthcare COVID support, and music markets by storm.

The answer to the above is yes, and no. It is not music per se but it is opera, and the deeper answer is; yes, – very possibly, and in ways that we could not have imagined.

Even more curious, is that – it is not like Opera is a household accepted musical item. It has that bourgeois middle class image which even ENO, the common man entry point for opera, inhabits. And yet here we have a project that is open for all and has to be so, regardless of musical ability or background.

ENO Breathe is a joint project that is a fully structured, thought-out, and managed collaboration, between the ENO, and Imperial College NHS Trust, that delivers a programme of breathing exercises, and participation in singing routines and soft lullabies – to help long term COVID suffers get over their condition.

It is a brilliant concept that astonishingly has no public funding – its initial pilot of 12 patients back in August was crowd-funded to the tune of £12K, by ENO Members, in just seven days. And Imperial College cover their own costs.

It is a marriage of expertise that can make, and is making such a difference already, across a divide that would not have been visible or noticed a year ago. You could say ENO Breathe was an accident, the result of perhaps an even more strange accident – where the seamstresses and costume teams at ENO – plus an increasing army of ENO staff and volunteers, produced the Scrubs for various hospitals, due to a national shortage of protective workwear.

From there, it is a short step to ask – “well, what else we can do?”

From those initial conceptual discussions in early June 2020 – ENO Breathe now has a network of regional NHS Hospitals all signed up to registering their COVID Patients into the scheme. Hospitals include all the main London hospitals, plus Liverpool Royal Infirmary, Manchester, Newcastle, and Oxford. Patient entry into the scheme has to be by referral only, from one of the above hospitals, or from a medical practitioner.

This is no singing group or roll-up choir practice. ENO Breathe is a medically based process that uses opera expertise at its highest level – for the good of patients who need help and who probably have never inhabited an opera house in their life.

And whilst Andrew would be supremely comfortable if patients in return, all became ENO Members, his more urgent need is to continue the funding process.

ENO is currently looking for corporate sponsors, who wish to be visible in their COVID support and also by implication, support for the Arts. It is a truism that every patient is somebody’s employee. You could argue there is a vested interest in corporates protecting their employees in a wider sense.

We finish our discussion. Andrew is sitting in white T-Shirt, in his pristine white lounge area at his home. He has other calls to make, One of the ENO mantras, is that opera is open to all – but I don’t think even he imagined how this would work out.
 
If you are interested in supporting ENO Breathe, please contact Andrew at agiven@eno.org and if you like to know more visit https://eno.org/eno-breathe/’
 

HAS HEALTHCARE CHANGED FOR EVER, BECAUSE OUR LIFESTYLES HAVE CHANGED FOR EVER?

We chat with HIMSS Global Clinical Director, Charles Alessi, about where healthcare is going for all of us, and what will be the key changes. It’s a wide ranging discussion…

It’s an obvious question with no obvious answer, because our original assessments of just 10 months ago, may well be incorrect.

Charles Alessi looks intently at me across the screen, we are on FaceTime, – he is dressed casually in a pastel coloured polo shirt, sitting in his relaxed lounge area of his home in south west London, there are rows of books behind, a sort of academic university professor ambience and it reminds me of my own one/one sessions all those years ago. As a former Chair of the UK’s National Association of Primary Care, and as an advisor to WHO – Charles is well placed to be talking about the problems of our time.

And COVID per se, may not be one of them. “There have always been pandemics,” he says. This particular COVID-19 is really a child of the 21st century, perfectly suited to our super connected societies where global travel between dense population centres  is as common as a daily commute” Charles is more referring to our personal ability to survive and manage ourselves in lockdown, or rather – survive the absence of face/face proper contact, and the distance management that is the glue that holds us all together and allows us to cope.

“Starting the day at 08.00am, from my living room, with a call to Tokyo – and then a 10.00 call to Berlin – with London time zone calls in between – and then the 17.00 call with California – all whilst sitting in my own arm chair and not having moved an inch – is not what our bodies and brains are designed for. We as humans, need the travel time, to adjust, to refocus, to wind down between sessions, so to say.”

So no – our Lifestyles have not changed for ever. We will inevitably return to the travel to meetings, as soon as it is safe to so do – because we are becoming disorientated without doing so.

Healthcare on the other hand, has indeed changed, and we cannot put the genie back in the bottle. It is obvious that telehealth, or telemedicine, and the remote monitoring of our conditions by clinicians, makes sense, and reduces costs. And where all of us are moving towards a single version of truth of our own health. And yet, this democratising of healthcare – Charles argues – has not happened. And so we have systems and processes designed to fix individual instances, but where in times of a pandemic, are forcing whole decades of instances into just a few months or even weeks. How can we possibly cope?

The key to where our health processes should be going, is at the beginning, where we stop being a binary society, – assuming we are all “well” – until we flick the switch one random day and find we are sick, we have a lump, a pain, whatever. And then we go to places called hospitals to fix the issue.

Our focus now should be the age of precision early management of our individual health. At a time when you and I as individuals already know from the data on our wrist, what is wrong with us even before the doctor ever speaks to us, we are now in a position to manage where our own health data and symptoms, and what Charles calls “non communicable diseases” , can take us, for our own good.

I was expecting somehow a medical discussion and yet this was not it. This was a look at where society is going, and what are we doing as society. But you and I as individuals, are society.

I always remember being late substantially for a meeting. I called ahead, as if my excuse – “I am in traffic!” – was good enough.

“But you are the traffic”, was the response.

Are you a Citizen Data Scientist? I’ve no idea…

Anna Rossudowska has written to us from the Alteryx company, asking us to join her Seminar, where she is speaking. There is only one problem. I have no idea what she is talking about. We have called her office and as soon as we get a deeper discussion, we will be pleased to inform you. In the meantime…

“Citizen data scientist” is a term that seemed to catch on overnight. But what exactly is a citizen data scientist? And what’s this up-and-coming talent group doing to their businesses?

Join this live webinar series to learn everything you ever wanted to know about citizen data scientists — including how to become one. You’ll discover:

*How citizen data scientists have changed the analytics industry + the future of democratised data science

*Steps to become a citizen data scientist

*Ways to demonstrate value to your business and develop your analytic skills

*Get ready to unleash the next stage of your analytics journey. Register today.

WEBINAR DETAIL DATE 17 February – 3 March TIME 11:00 – 12:00 GMT

WHAT NOW, FOR HEALTHCARE IN EUROPE?

We interview the VP of HIMSS EMEA, Sean Roberts, newly moved to the UK from his native California, for his plans for HIMSS over the next twelve months – and his view of healthcare on this side of the Atlantic. HIMSS is the largest healthcare trade association in the world. Its annual Global Conference resonates around the world; European healthcare vendors, particularly from Scandinavia, use the USA as their launch pad for their European and even domestic healthcare promotion.

It is not the first time that Sean and I have met. Sean is an anglophile. The last time of any significance, that we met, we went to a rather bijou little restaurant somewhere in south west London on one of his frequent stop-offs. It is rare to find an American with such a detailed knowledge of eating places in London where tourists don’t go.

This time it is different. We are in Zoom territory now. Sean has much shorter dark hair this time – he is wearing a dark blue t-shirt, the background in his home office is bare white, and he looks quizzically at the PC screen;

“Can you hear me now?

I get up and move around my own office.

“Yep! I’ve got a better connection if I stand just here….”

And this is no stop-off. Sean has moved his whole family, wife, and dog – across the Atlantic, to use London as the base so to say, for promoting better clinical management and outreach, in Europe. It is an irony compounded by the fact that the HIMSS Global Chief Clinical Director, who advises the PHE – is also already UK based.

Obviously, COVID dominates the first part of the conversation. And I ask; “So, at a time when each European country is fending for itself, why choose the UK?”

Sean hesitates and replies; “it is because English is de facto the international language, but above all, because your frontline NHS worker bees, are so “resilient”.” It is a word Sean uses several times in our conversation.

And it is not because the UK has best healthcare COVID outcomes. That accolade goes to Denmark. They plan on doing 5.5 million vaccinations, by July 2021 and everyone’s bet is that they will do this. I concur; my last time running through CPH just a few months ago, my passport control took just a few seconds and even before getting my bag, there was a nice young Danish girl in blue uniform asking me “would I like a COVID test? It’s free of charge for all visitors”. I was directed through the arrivals area, up some steps and into a covered area, and within twenty minutes tops, I had my first COVID test. “Yes, we will call you at your Hoel in day or two of there are any probs”, the nice nurse said.

What Sean is able to do, is make comparisons between one country and another, and make suggestions to each government, each hospital -“Look, have you thought about mirroring how these other people do it? Their outcomes are better”.

Looking outside one’s own internal bubble, and learning from others, is a key message that Sean is trying to promote in the UK. And the delivery of this message is not without its problems. It may not all be to do with technology, but more about national culture. Those countries that do best in containing COVID, are those who have an implicit trust in their governments. If the government says this is the right road, then this is what we will do.

Despite the fact that we are a Telehealth society now, we are hampered by the lowest common denominator in terms of wifi connectivity. The growth of Telehealth, of video conferencing, has not been because surgeries and hospitals want to go down that road, it is because they have had to take that avenue. The success of Telehealth and remote consultation at surgery and hospital vet, is directly related to each individual organisation’s willingness to adopt these new processes.

But having said that, Sean continues, these messages are getting through. IHE and HL7 and links with the WHO, are the new common standards, and HIMSS has a programme for 2021, for increasing its pan Europe roll out. The next Conference, which may well be hybrid, will be again based around Finland and their new initiatives, – it is scheduled for 7th-10th June.

Scandinavia remains a natural point of departure for HIMSS EMEA, and there is a sadness that only 5% of visitors to HIMSS events are from the UK. In the same way that just a year ago, nobody had heard of COVID – so life and healthcare is a different process now. Let’s see in June if the message has got through.

COVID; Analysis of Key Commercial Benchmarks

We look at the past twelve months and ask – if everything has gone wrong, was that simply because of COVID, or were the downsides always there, it’s  just that Covid was the excuse  of choice? Or are there new trends and behaviours come to the surface that we never considered until now?

Looking at the obvious – you can  say that 2020 was the death knell of Events and Conferences. Major companies globally are in trouble and have not been able to rediscover a new secret sauce as to why you and should even  bother to attend an online event. As long as COVID continues, it is doubtful whether many will still be around with their current offering, thru to the end of 2021. In our discussions with vendors, we have yet to find any vendor that is satisfied that being part of a virtual event has has offered them any benefit at all. Criticisms range from “ this is a scam”, to the more polite “ it’s not the fault of the organiser, they are doing their best”  etc.

It is made doubly worse  by the lack of interest from so many delegates.  Worst in our discussions, were anything to do with the UK NHS. Even those that attend workshops have almost nil interest in pursuing a discussion after they have gone offline and  in almost all cases there is no way for a vendor to progress a discussion. Much better are the Financial events; there is a clear monetary and commercial objective  – but even then – online workshops that we looked at – were sparsely attended, the vendors themselves outnumbering the delegates.

This situation is made worse alas by the naivety and astonishing optimism of the conference organisers themselves, who routinely do not bother to answer emails from apparent interested parties, preferring to have a voicemail, saying “we are working from home”.  Or those who publish and write to us with sentences such as:”We bring people together and excite them with truly life-changing experiences. Creating the ideal environment for doing business, learning about new trends and innovations, and cementing relationships. Discover our unique mission, vision and values.”

This is not what people are saying to us.

At least some organisers are trying tho. This one in Liverpool, sent us a nice paragraph:

It is all down to simplicity and not trying to recreate a inperson conference. It is impossible to recreate an inperson event so why not shake things up and cater for what you have in hand. By having more focused sessions and pre arranged 1-2-1’s rather than a networking area sponsors, delegates and speakers have a much more comprehensive experience’
The trouble is – this  is alas not our experience, as well intentioned as it may be.
In short – the market exists on two levels; established vendors who just want to support their brand. They are not so dependent on  people coming to see them. Or at a deeper level – the vendor who has something new to say – in which case, the conference has work to do to keep the delegate focussed and  on-message. One thing is clear; the lack of face to face contact will continue for longer than we care to admit.
Looking  at our work habits, what is clear is that we all accept, employers and employees, that work is a thing we do, rather than a place we go. The problem is, that the novelty has worn off. What started as a great experiment, working from home – an increasing number of people have told us that six months in, they are much less focussed, and that work expands to fill the entire day. There is no “me” time.  We frequently receive emails at 23.00, from companies and even prospects, wanting our attention.  This is damaging to both our work performance and our personal health.
The good people at the property rental specialists Knotel company in London, who we have spoken to,  tell  us that corporates are looking in increasing numbers for short term flexible packages and locations.
All of which is good, for them, but we expect to see as the vaccine kicks in, a gradual return to the heady days of returning to an office to work. It has to be like this, for reasons of sharper contact with one’s colleagues, as well as the dependence on infrastructure, theatres, social gathering, that we all need as human beings. The only question is one of size; just how many people will indeed retreat from corporate values, and decide they actually like to earn less but are happier in themselves.
Moving on…..as of today (at time of writing I have just received a News Item that we have a Brexit deal, that will deliver us more or less half of what we already had anyway – clearly good news….) – this is a good moment to take stock and see which markets are now relevant, or have changed.
Talking to my colleagues in La Rochelle and Toulouse, and Paris, France; this is not a market that is worth exploring for the time being. The South West France in particular is in deep depression. The empty streets, the 20.00 curfew, has demoralised the french psyche.
Similarly, the failure of COVID free expression in Sweden, has created a sense of uncertainty among an increasing number of areas of Sweden, particularly around the Goteborg area. There are no such hesitations from the south of Sweden, or Norway.
Two things are of interest; there is a new vigour in the UK, to going and doing things. What was unmitigated disaster some nine months ago, has now manifested into something more positive. Similarly, my colleagues in Switzerland are saying “2020 was our best year”, from technology services to  consumer drinks. However – this growth has all been domestic. We would like to see more outreach from Swiss companies internationally.
Ultimately, it will in both  the consumer/delegate, as well as vendor and organiser, to increase their appetite for being serious and implemting change. That thread is the common denominator  of both avenues.  It will be interesting to see in twelve months time, which industries and geo areas have risen to the challenge.,

 

 

Introducing A New Innovative, Incision-Free Treatment from Gynesonics.

MedStar Health is the first health system to provide Sonata, an incision-free, uterus-preserving, outpatient treatment option for women  with symptomatic Uterine Fibroids

Gynesonics®, a women’s healthcare company focused on the development of minimally invasive solutions for symptomatic uterine fibroids, announced today that MedStar Health, a not-for-profit health system of 4,300 affiliated physicians and 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, has introduced the Sonata® Procedure in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area. The first case at MedStar Health was performed by Vadim Morozov, M.D., the Director of the American Academy of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL) Fellowship in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Fibroids are benign growths in or around the uterus, with about 70 percent of white women and more than 80 percent of black women having uterine fibroids before the age of 50. Uterine fibroids may cause significant and debilitating symptoms, including heavy menstrual bleeding. Symptoms may worsen over time if fibroids are left untreated, which leads to more than two million women in the U.S. undergoing treatment for uterine fibroids each year.

“Invasive surgery can be a major deterrent to women who would otherwise seek treatment,” said Chris Owens, President and CEO of Gynesonics. “We are committed to making Sonata available to all women who suffer from symptomatic uterine fibroids. This acknowledgment of the clinical importance of Sonata by Dr. Morozov and MedStar Health is important for patients in the Washington D.C./Maryland area. We are excited to be accelerating our commercial efforts and launch of the Sonata System across the United States and globally.”

The Sonata procedure offers women with symptomatic uterine fibroids an option that is incision-free, has a quick recovery with excellent reduction in heavy menstrual bleeding symptoms, and provides an option to avoid invasive surgery. Sonata uses a unique intrauterine ultrasound handpiece to locate and target the individual fibroids. Radiofrequency energy is delivered to shrink the fibroid and reduce symptoms. The Sonata Treatment is a breakthrough alternative to hysterectomy and myomectomy, and can treat a wide range of fibroid types, sizes, and locations. The fibroids are treated from inside the uterus, so the Sonata Treatment requires no incisions, no tissue is surgically removed, and the uterus is preserved. Clinical studies demonstrate that nearly 90 percent of women showed a reduction in menstrual bleeding at three months and 95 percent had a reduction in bleeding at 12 months. Additionally, 50 percent of women returned to normal activities the next day.

The Sonata System uses radiofrequency energy to ablate fibroids under real time sonography guidance from within the uterine cavity, utilizing the first and only intrauterine ultrasound transducer. The System includes a proprietary graphical user interface (SMART Guide), enabling the operator to target fibroids and optimize treatment. The Sonata system provides incision-free transcervical access for a uterus-preserving fibroid treatment. This intrauterine approach is designed to avoid the peritoneal cavity. The Sonata System is CE marked and is approved for sale in the European Union and the United States.

For more information on the Sonata Treatment and to watch patient testimonials, please visit http://www.sonatatreatment.com.

Coronavirus in Hull.

At a time when the North East city of Hull has become one of the highest rate of COVID in the Uk, – Amelia Grace, leading young blogger in East Yorks in the UK, gives a first hand assessment of where it is going wrong – and where does that leave the uk?

Coronavirus has been a common part of life for close to a year now. It’s plastered all over the news, it’s a massive topic of conversation and it’s all anyone seems to talk about. What do you think about the pandemic? Has the government handled it in the right way? When will we have a vaccine and will it have an impact? Will life ever be normal again?

These are some of the things I’ve discussed with people and I have wondered since March and the first lockdown.

More recently, the government has tackled the situation with a tiered approach, categorising places into medium, high or very high in terms of covid alert level. I’m a resident of Hull, a city in Yorkshire which started off in tier 1 and entered tier 2 just before the whole country was thrust into a lockdown on 5 November. Now, we have the most cases out of the whole of the UK and are set to enter tier 3 once we are released from lockdown. What went wrong in Hull?

Complacency. In my opinion, that is how Hull’s cases have suddenly projected so high. Starting off in tier 1, many of us were holding our breath, waiting and expecting to be moved up to tier 2 because our number of covid cases were closer to that of towns and cities in tier 2. Since tier 1 has the least amount of restrictions, people could still meet up in groups of 6 indoors and outdoors, visit cafes, restaurants and shops and basically live their lives in a fairly normal fashion. The fact Hull spent so long in tier 1 meant some of its people became more relaxed as you would if you were in the bottom tier and abandoned their more cautious attitude towards the virus. From my perspective, I typified this stereotype, spending much of my time in September and October, meeting up with my friends and family in a mixture of indoor and outdoor settings. Towards the end of October, I did start to get more anxious about having to isolate or catching the virus but it didn’t stop me from carrying on with life as normal.

Then all of a sudden, we were in tier 2. But it wasn’t all of a sudden. The truth was Hull had needed to be in the middle of the three tiers for a while. The citizens of Hull turned to outdoor gatherings as opposed to indoor ones and had their Halloween and Bonfire night parties before the 31st October when we were still under tier 1 rules. Was it a little too late though? The cases were already rising and had been ever since September. Alas, we will never know because the day that we moved into tier 2 was the day Boris Johnson announced a lockdown for the whole country. We spent less than a week enduring those tighter restrictions trying to get everything done for Christmas before we were locked back up in our homes.

Could the problem even be tracked back to March? Evidence shows that the first wave of the virus didn’t hit people in Hull nearly as badly as it did in other places. After the first lockdown, I could only name people who I had a very distant social connection to who had contracted the virus. Now, in November, I can name many. My teacher. My classmate. A member of my church. The personal connection to the virus that wasn’t there previously is now in full effect and it’s frightening to know that people you’ve seen recently have experienced the virus. It causes you to worry for your friends and family in a way you didn’t in the first wave and it proves it’s authenticity. It’s real. And it’s not going away.

The virus has affected me in a personal way as I am now isolating for two weeks after being in contact with someone at college who has contracted the virus. All things considered, it may be a blessing in disguise with the rapidly growing amount of cases in Hull. Even before our year group was sent home for this reason, some of my friends were already isolating due to being in contact with the virus. It has been spreading for a while and the hope of the city is that this lockdown will serve to break the chain in terms of infections and stop more people from overwhelming the NHS and ultimately dying from it.

Some positivity that has shone through all the bleakness is the way that the local media have handled the second wave as of recent times. Look North, our local news for East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire, have covered stories where they have spoken to people with the virus and hospital staff. Their aim is to spread awareness about the virus and the effects it can have and it is so refreshing to see this sector of the media using their influence for good. Instead of scaremongering or downplaying the virus, they have presented it as it is and are trying their best to help with the worsening situation.

Can Hull turn it around? Only time will tell. With this current lockdown and the tightened tier 3 measures this city could potentially face in December, it looks achievable. However, after the cases in Hull fall again, another area will assume the top spot of the most covid cases in England list. This cycle will continue over and over again until one day we beat the virus. Hopefully, that day will come soon.