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Gobsmacked at Labour’s petulant refusal to debate Covid vaccination scheme at Newcastle City Council : Liberal Democrats shocked at the lap of grasp of details

January 7, 2021 10:10 PM

National Lockdown logoIn a show of apparent petulance, Labour's Council Group fought off two attempts by the Opposition to ensure a proper debate on the vital vaccine rollout scheme that is central to our country's return to normal life.

Blaming "long questions" from Opposition members holding them to account, the Labour Group first refused to bring forward the motion on vaccines, before refusing to extend the meeting by a mere 30 minutes to ensure a debate could be had.

Cllr Aidan King, an NHS doctor who proposed the motion, said: "Labour refused to discuss the failure of the Westminster Government to support GPs to properly to roll out the vaccines.

"They cut a proposal to support a cash payment for individuals who complete the programme, which could be an essential incentive for the self employed. They are out of touch with the self employed in our City.

"They also claimed the AstraZeneca vaccine would be available at pharmacies in Newcastle. It is not currently. Coming off the back of vaccine scepticism from a prominent regional Labour MP, this is worrying leadership on such a vital issue.

"As a doctor working at the RVI Newcastle, in clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, I am shocked by their lack of grasp on the details."

Cllr Nick Cott, Leader of the Opposition said: "How astounding that Labour had a problem with so-called 'long questions'. Perhaps they should consider how their whittling away of the Council meeting schedule over the years - down to only 8 annually - has left us with over-long agendas and no time to debate vital issues brought forward by members.

"The Opposition has long been concerned about Labour stifling debate by default. We will continue to press for the right to debate and a right of reply."

Councillor Dr Aidan King (Castle Ward) would have said : This is a discussion about the Westminster government's organisation of vaccinations.

They have successfully brought in a hub network for vaccination. Tonight I want to focus on the spokes. When I asked the operations director of our local hub about GP issues as a member of health scrutiny he said they had been an afterthought by central government, and that they were doing everything they could within the framework they had been given.
This is the start of the poem "Just a GP"
I am a member of a vast team, yet I work alone
I feel valued by many, yet I am under-valued by a key few
Some quotes from GPs
Nina (from Sunderland wrote to me) "I think if done from top down they will make a hash of it like PHE and PPE contracts and further monies will be squandered away to private sectors. It's a rubbish contract"
Tom (from Newcastle wrote)"I am resigned to going with the flow despite all the issues because we want to do what we can to support the programme."

"The current sites at Eagles stadium and the race course are in the west and the north of the city so our population in Byker and Walker who are among the most socioeconomically deprived in the country are being asked to travel some distance which is not going to be great for uptake"
Q "could you make it work? A "Sure. The difficulties are being overstated"
Pat (from Newcastle wrote) "It would have been great to have had training in the logistics and delivery of the vaccines to the at-risk groups in the care homes and house bound patients, and more funding for staff recruitment"
The current rate of vaccination is 300-400 thousand per week. This is doses, not competed vaccinations requiring 2 doses. There are 22 million people in priority groups to be vaccinated. At the current rate: 2 years. At 2 million a week into the summer for 2 doses.
What is the cost of late action?
Our government in Westminster has been late in every stage of this pandemic.
In the next 4 weeks over 20,000 UK citizens will die from corona virus.
At a 70% increase in the transmission rate we may not be able to control the virus with current measures.
In the south of England we have created the ideal environment for the virus to mutate by not putting in sufficient measures to control its transmission.
Vaccination will take a long time and will be complex. Because of the crisis situation we now have, the government has already moved its position since we published this motion, much like our motion on furlough extension. We are changing to a larger gap between doses. We would never do this if it were not a crisis. I support this measure. The government has also provided increased funding for domiciliary visits to care homes, one of our recommendations.
There is a real risk the roll-out is headed for disaster like NHS Test and Trace. What we have seen with the Liverpool mass testing is that people in poverty and low skills had a much lower
uptake of tests. The current vaccine programme is heavily centralised and will advantage the mobile and those able to be able to access the vaccines. GPs have a vital role in disadvantaged communities of delivering healthcare close to where people live. The current ES contract for the vaccines will alienate GPs and reduce people's access to the vaccines.
We should be fighting Covid with vaccination on every street
We should be fighting Covid with vaccination in every bed bound home
We should be fighting Covid with vaccination as fast as is possible
We are not.
We submit Newcastle's recommendations laid out in this motion to you tonight to the government;

Councillor Robin Ashby (Parklands Ward) would have said : The vaccines are safe and they work.

But as it seems that Clinical Commissioning Groups are not keen for the views of the medical profession to be known, I shall in a small way give a further voice to the voiceless by passing along views I've heard from some of them in the region:
They complain of vaccines not yet delivered, including to the most deprived areas. Many frontline staff are still waiting to be vaccinated. There's a large and unnecessary admin burden in altering the dosing regime for the Pfizer vaccine, and potential for confusion amongst recipients. While the hub model is reasonable for the Pfizer vaccine because it's in bulk and has to be kept very cold, the Astrazeneca Oxford one is better delivered more locally.
That's something which is borne out by my personal experience of the annual flu vaccine. My doctors vaccinate almost all their vulnerable patients in 3 special Saturday sessions. They have in a way be practicing for this pandemic for years. The marquee they used to ensure social distancing is still sitting in the grounds of their building.
Smallpox was eliminated globally by vaccinating on an "outbreak" basis - which is what our Director of Public Health said in the media today we have in Newcastle. This would however require a world beating track and trace system which despite vacuous claims by Tory ministers we still don't have.
And why? Because this country is far too centralised. Ministers want to control everything. They are still in thrall to the approach of the King of Barnard Castle. They aren't listening to local leadership who know how things actually work in the real world. Andy Burnham, who knows a bit about health management, and Jeremy Hunt, likewise, are crying into the hurricane of incompetence.
I think our Director of Public Health will forgive me for passing on to you his concerns about the numbers of vaccinators available. And that's after the Department of Health has had half a year's warning that mass vaccination was the only way forward. Why is a massive effort not underway to recruit back anybody who's previously used a syringe, and to train people in this single one operation? From what one hears, volunteers stepping forward have been faced with a blizzard of form filling and such things as radicalisation training rather than being welcomed to stick life saving needles into arms as a matter of the most urgent national priority.
When the little boats were summoned to help evacuate the British Army from Dunkirk, it was the health and safety of the massed men on the beaches that was of the greatest importance, not Board of Trade regulations. At a time when we've had tens of thousands of old and vulnerable people die while paperclip pushers fiddle, we are about to reach the second highest death rate in the world. How many more will be thrown under the bus because simple things can't be done to save them because of London incompetence? Or was it they have been far too bogged down in a catastrophic Brexit deal to give much thought to what's killing us today?
Israel is already vaccinating 1 million people a week, and have 10 times the coverage we do. We need to unleash local health care providers and volunteers to deliver 2 million jabs a week or more to protect the more vulnerable half of our population before a third virus wave arrives.