Letter for Inform Scotland from an educator
The Scottish Government has asked the general public to comment on excess deaths in Scotland since the start of the pandemic. What is curious is that we have been told for months, years even, that we should not comment on matters of science, this should be left to ‘the experts’. Anyone reading this knows that many of these ‘experts’ have gotten it wrong recently as (as the experts are (at last check) human) they are subject to the same fallibility as anyone else. In the meantime, we who have ‘mothers’ wisdom’ (yes I am a mother in addition to many other things) have been screaming, writing and speaking on the effects of this situation for…. let’s just say, a long time. We are personally aware of the devastating effects of their policies, as we witness, very viscerally in real time, the suffering they cause.
Ironically the government presents a consultation which – far from an opinion poll – asks for scientific input. After being told we cannot speak on matters of science.
At Inform Scotland we happen to have to hand data physicists, doctors, epidemiologists and medical professionals who are adept at accessing and analysing data. We have submitted a separate response under that particular mantle.
I am not a scientist, I work in education. That said, in my whole (nearly 50 year) life I was taught to question and inquire on matters, in particular ones that directly impacted me. This of course is no more relevant than now. We should be celebrating anyone who engages with government policy. Robust governance and democracy thrive on debate from people of different backgrounds and persuasions. Only when things are tested at the edges and subject to (often difficult) rigorous debate can good laws be made that honestly serve their population for the best good (recognising that often this is not a simple issue of good and bad and compromises are inevitably made).
This is sorely lacking not just in measures related to Covid and the pandemic but in general. Our laws seemed to be based around ‘not’, ‘not-Trump’, ‘not-Boris’, ‘not-Holyrood’ ad infinitum. This is a stupid way to behave. It is. You are stupid if you think this is a good way for governance. We should be aspiring within our own spaces for best based on what is around us. Not based around pitching ourselves moderately higher than the ridiculously low bar of someone else.
Now here is the thing on THIS: I do not understand how a public health inquiry based around such skill to articulate the questions asked could genuinely be considered a ‘public’ health inquiry, since most do not (as you continually point out) have the skills to recognise or analyse as such.
What we do have is ‘common’ knowledge and access to ‘empirical science’ – that is the science of the observed. But the Scottish Government questions are not written as such. That said, actually asking about ‘common knowledge’ using ‘empirical science’ would probably be a very useful exercise that could bring much good to the discussion and create workable effective solutions. Certainly former Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns did a lot of good work on this, which seems to have gone in the opposite direction in recent years.
That said I have reframed the questions to give an opportunity for ‘ordinary persons’ to respond using empirical science. That is ‘common sense’ knowledge, what is seen and felt based around the personal experience of the respondent.
- Has the public health emergency shifted from COVID-19 deaths to deaths from non-COVID-19 conditions?
NEW QUESTION: What is your perception on the COVID-19 situation. In your experience are people more concerned about non-COVID-19 deaths or do they still prioritise COVID-19 above all else?
What I have noticed anecdotally is that middle class/comfortable people seem the most concerned about Covid (and death). It is interesting as many of their lives have not been dramatically impacted by the past two years, meaning: they are still able to put food on the table, still heat their homes whilst working from home, access private lessons for their children as needed (be it academic or extra-curricular), have good family support networks who can support themselves and their children emotionally and financially, can pay for holiday cottages etc etc etc….
Meanwhile those who were already living on the edge, the less financially stable, are concerned (to put it mildly) about the larger implications of lockdown and not being able to provide for their families let alone have ‘nice stuff’. Those fortunate enough to have jobs that have continued to operate unhindered have the perspective of survival in spite of it all. This particular demographic do not seem to be social media influencers, and therefore are not influencing policy, where the latter group are.
Individuals in areas of multiple deprivation are dealing with a sharp increase in suicides and lack of access to health services they have no option to pay for. Many children are suffering immeasurably not having had access to regular activities and being isolated from social groups.
My perception of the Scottish Government is that they are more interested in polishing their own image as the ‘better than Boris’ club. This mode of politics emphasises “we’re not them” while failing to aspire to something actually worthy and helpful. I have seen huge amounts of money spent on propaganda whilst my local play park remains broken. I have seen child mental health deteriorate as they are fed a disaster diet and denied basic access to play facilities and clubs. Meanwhile thousands of pounds are spent on a ‘virtue government’ (based upon ‘apocalyptic governance’ which keeps people in a constant state of readiness for disaster).
- Is there evidence that patients are now presenting with a more acute condition?
NEW QUESTION: Do you know anyone who is now presenting with a more acute condition having not been able to access adequate care during pandemic?
As said previously, I know of many suicides. I know of miscarriages. I know of cancer deaths. My child and myself have still not been given dental appointments in two years. Hopefully this does not lead to further issues.
In general I have witnessed an exceptional rise in mental health issues in particular with the children I work with in schools.
This is an overwhelming issue which will lead to disintegration of physical health, breakdown of relationships, and inability to cope with life.
Many have been unable to access face to face GP appointments or routine clinical appointments. One member reports that her friend’s partner (in his late 30s) has MS and has not had access to a nurse once. He has had no scans or support. She also reports a friend who had a pulmonary embolism as a result of Covid and has been told there is a 2 year waiting list.
- What accounts for the non-COVID-19 conditions?
NEW QUESTION: Who in your community has died in the past twenty months and from what that is not related to covid?
I know six people who died post-vaccine. I know of numerous suicides. I know of cancer deaths. I know of miscarriages. I know of kids who have been sectioned due to stress of lockdown and fear messaging. I know of children who have developed physical impairments related to stress of lockdown and fear messaging.
Prior to lockdown there were no food banks in our area. Now there is one serving 150 families a week. I wonder if the lack of access to proper food based around what is needed rather than what is given will lead to further health problems. I have noticed malnutrition amongst children I work with. Their bellies may be full but it is not quality food that is necessary for brain and bone development.
- Is there enough strategic focus on the indirect health impacts of the pandemic?
NEW QUESTION: Are you aware of any initiatives by Scot gov which supports non-COVID-19 health?
The health impacts are not related to the pandemic they are specifically in relation to lockdown measures. If we take a long lens and consider what other nations did, many were able to continue ‘as normal’ without the devastating fallout. Doctors continued to tend to patients, children’s education continued in person unabated, old folks were given personal autonomy to decide how they wanted to spend their last golden moments and with whom, governments did not mediate how family life was organised and with whom, people continued to work and earn a crust for their families.
- what are the realistic options open to the government in addressing the indirect health impact of the virus in winter 2021/22
Recently El Salvador produced a positive and achievable promotional video to promote health amongst its population:
— Nayib Bukele 🇸🇻 (@nayibbukele) January 4, 2022
This is a stark contrast to the constant fear and negativity our government seems to feed on. In addition the NHS is obsessed with fear propaganda. Why is there so little or no discussion around ‘actual’ health? I cite Sir Harry Burns once more who as our former CMO did extraordinary work in addressing generational negative health trends. We are in the process of embedding new generational health problems amongst our community. This is not only insanity, it is evil to knowingly continue down this path. We must offset any ‘knowledge’ we pass with positive options and hope. History tells us that humanity is resilient, and that in the context of things we have gone and will probably go through much worse. We must end apocalyptic governance. It is irresponsible at best.
I hope that we can bring in some element of balance back to our political and social sphere so that the harms brought to the disadvantaged and vulnerable, and children in particular, do not continue. That families be valued and supported, and that health in it’s true sense is brought back to the forefront.
On the nature of this ‘consultation’ I hold to my original assertion that it is not a public consultation. Few members of the public would have access to the materials, or knowledge necessary to answer in a useful way, that would benefit the health and lives of Scottish people. When my Inform colleagues shared it with me, my initial response was ‘this is the work our tax funded government should be doing!’. I hold to that.
In the meantime, as they are employed by us, we should hold them to account to do their jobs better. We should challenge them to provide the broad church of views and experiences of its populace in order to make more of an informed decision. We should have rigorous and challenging debates. And somewhere in there arrive at a decision that is not propagandised or politicized but offers reasonable and measured response, recognising that there is compromise and nuance in all things. We should recognize that science is not an answer or a belief but a question that needs constant attention as it interacts with changing circumstances. This is the basis of the model of medicine set out by Hippocrates thousands of years ago and still holds true.
-Veritas is an educator based in Scotland who has worked nationally and internationally in educational settings for thirty years. She is also a mother to a primary school child.
Vincit Omnia Vertitas “Truth conquers all things”