An open letter to Sir John Redwood
Dear Sir John,
This open letter is written on behalf of a number of Wokingham residents, who are classed as vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to Covid-19 and who are parents of school age children.
We are asking that you represent us at parliament and ask for a review of the mandatory attendance at school of children of CEV parents.
As new cases of Covid-19 rise dramatically in Wokingham and across the UK and as the impact and transmissibility of the new variant unfolds, the concern and anxiety of CEV parents in Wokingham also increases.
The ONS has reported a significant shift in the distribution of Covid-19 cases, with a significant portion of cases involving under-15s in recent weeks.
In a tier 4 area CEV children are advised not to attend school, however, children who have CEV parents are still required to attend school with the threat of fines or deregistration for non-attendance.
We have repeatedly been told that, while children may transmit the virus, they appear to only be mildly affected by the disease.
This does not take into consideration the effects on the child, indeed the whole family, if the CEV parent were to fall seriously ill, be hospitalised, or die.
The effect of this on the child would not be mild. It would be devastating and permanent.
Additionally, CEV adults in a tier 4 area have now been asked to shield again.
It is not possible to shield, if a CEV parent needs to take a child to school, and if that child is coming into contact with 30 others before returning to the house.
As parents, we have an understanding of the importance of education and mental health for children, so would not willingly keep children off school unless there was a significant risk to life (such as the infection rates in a tier 4 area).
But where Covid-19 presents a life threatening risk to a parent they should be able to make the decision, with the support of the school and GPs, about their child’s attendance, and have access to the same online educational provisions that are available for isolating children.
Please support the CEV residents of your constituency and raise this question in the House of Commons on our behalf.
Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Parents of Wokingham
Editor’s note – This letter was received before the current lockdown was announced for England
How you can help protect the NHS this winter
As 2020 drew to a close, I, like others, reflected on what a different year it has been.
You may have experienced for the first time concerns about your or your family’s physical and mental health, uncertainty over your job and livelihood and may be worried about your children’s education and futures. Holiday plans were cancelled, and we all got used to communication via screens rather than face-to-face.
But in the midst of such difficult times, we have seen some amazing acts of kindness, with communities coming together to support the vulnerable and lonely, and tens of thousands of people showing their support for each other and the NHS.
The clapping for carers, rainbow pictures and overwhelming donations of home-made masks, gowns, food and support have touched all of us who work and volunteer at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.
In many areas, neighbours have rallied round those who are living on their own or in need of help with day to day living, such as food shopping or collecting prescriptions.
These community spirited actions are helping many to stay well and out of hospital, and are helping to reduce the spread of infection by keeping vulnerable people shielded.
It is so heartening to know that while you may have been worried about the virus, you are still taking time to follow the guidance and take action to help others, which helps to reduce the demand for your local health and care services.
We’re seeing a rise in Covid positive patients, so it is more important than ever to follow the ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ rules and adhere to the lockdown regulations.
This will help to reduce the spread of infection (remembering that many who test positive have no symptoms but can spread infection to those who may experience severe symptoms).
Restricting the spread of infection will ease pressure on our NHS services and enable our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to devote their time to treat those in urgent need of help.
As always, if you have a life threatening health emergency requiring immediate assistance, please phone 999 or attend our Emergency Department (ED).
You may need urgent care or advice, for symptoms like a lump that has appeared and not gone away, unexplained bleeding or severe respiratory problems, or if you have long term and multiple conditions that need regular monitoring.
If so, please seek medical help by contacting 111 or your local GP. In many cases, a telephone call can resolve things, or 111 staff can arrange a timed appointment for you to attend the Walk in Centre or other setting, including ED.
This avoids the need for overcrowded waiting rooms or long waits.
All of our Trust sites – the Royal Berkshire Hospital, West Berkshire Community Hospital, Townlands Hospital, Bracknell Healthspace, Prince Charles Eye Unit, Windsor Dialysis Unit and the Dingley Child Development Centre – are open and staff and patients are following strict infection control and health and safety rules.
Covid has generated some huge and unfamiliar challenges, and we have seen our communities and the NHS at our very best.
I speak for all my colleagues when I say how proud we are to be part of our National Health Service and all it has achieved in the last year.
Our teams of staff and volunteers, as well as those in GP practices, ambulances, pharmacies, local authorities, and community settings have shown devotion, dedication, and innovation to make sure we continue to see and treat as many patients as safely as possible.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our colleagues and to say how proud I am of them and how grateful we all are for the support shown to us by the communities we serve.
We are heading into 2021 with hope in our hearts as we see the roll out of the covid vaccine to those over 80 years of age and care home staff. I’d like to thank all our local healthcare teams for the way they are delivering the vaccine locally.
With more vaccine supplies on the way soon, we are looking forward to the roll out of the vaccine programme to give protection for the rest of the population.
We are continuing our work on ‘Building Berkshire Together’, our hospital redevelopment proposals, and look forward, as an anchor institution, to continuing our engagement with our communities over the coming weeks and months to further shape these proposals for the creation of a built environment from which we will run our services for generations to come.
I’d like to wish you all a safe and peaceful New Year.
Nicky Lloyd, Acting Chief Executive, Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
An interesting year
2020 has been an ‘interesting’ year (as the Chinese proverb says). Many people are feeling unsettled and uncertain about the future.
One such group is that of European citizens residing within the UK. The UK government is failing to follow up on its promises to our Europeans friends and relatives.
Part of the support is ensuring that democracy is available to all (no taxation without representation) and indeed getting the message out.
As we know the local elections of 2020 were cancelled due to the covid situation and have been postponed to May. What happens to the right to vote ? Can people who were due to vote in the 2020 elections be able to vote in 2021?
It turns out the answer is yes, however material is hard to find.
The Liberal Democrat group within Wokingham Town Council brought forward a motion to ensure that adequate communication is provided on who can vote.
This motion was passed unanimously with positive votes from Labour, Independents and Conservatives. The Town Council formally asked for support from Wokingham Borough Council and the local MP, John Redwood. WBC has confirmed that they will be making provision.
Sadly John Redwood has made no such affirmation, rather weakly saying he encourages people to vote but will not make any positive statement about our European friends and relatives ability to exercise their right to vote. He, of course, defers to law makers.
The only conclusion that can be made is that democracy is good only for a select few.
He only had to say, in a public forum, that he supports and encourages our European colleagues to exercise their vote and will endeavour to uphold their democratic right.
Cllr Peter Dennis, Liberal Democrat Councillor, Wokingham Town Council
I am writing to express my deep frustration with the government’s handling of the covid crisis. What we require from government during these times is clear, decisive, inclusive and forward-thinking planning. What we have is confusing, contradictory and chaotic management.
I am not claiming that managing all the conflicting needs in a pandemic is easy. However the countries that have had clear government goals, have acted decisively and quickly, and as a result, have managed to inflict the least damage, and not just measured by lives lost.
The goals that members of our society have are varied and conflicting:
• We need to protect those most at risk; the elderly, the vulnerable and those with underlying health conditions. We also need to protect those with mental health issues.
• We need to protect the NHS. A full ICU does not just mean there is not enough room for the next covid patient, it means not enough room for the next critical victim of a car crash, or for a patient requiring ICU care following heart surgery.
The need to prioritise critical care is drawing resources away from other vitally important health services, including in some cases surgery for cancer.
• Our children deserve to be safe. They also need to be schooled.
Online education just doesn’t work for some for a multitude of reasons. Not everyone has access to the right tech (a device for every child), high speed broadband, a safe, warm environment and a parent/carer available to support home-learning.
• Our teachers deserve to be safe. As do all other key-workers.
• Business owners, including child-care providers, want to maintain their businesses, which will be vital to re-build the economy.
This government has had access to credible, scientific data and advice which they fail, time and time again, to act on. Lessons have not been learned from the first lock-down, or the second.
Decisions are taken at the last-minute causing confusion and chaos.
The impact of decisions on many sectors of our society are not considered, or support is reactive, too little and too late. The advice given to schools is just one example; prepare (over holidays) for mass testing, then one day after opening given 12 hours to prepare for mass online learning.
I believe whole-heartedly that the current lockdown is necessary, however this has been clear since the previous one ended.
Vaccines are now being rolled out. This will take some time but where the government has failed, science will lift us out of this crisis.
I implore everyone to consider how this government has catastrophically failed its people when next at the ballot box.
Louise Timlin, Branch Leader, Women’s Equality Party, Reading and Wokingham
Following the proposal last week to vastly increase the period between the first and second Pfizer vaccine injections, I had difficulty restraining myself.
The issue caused me to write to the BMA and plead that doctors were instructed not to act, but stick to the practises they have always applied. In general, doctors apply the manufacturer’s instructions, for which they ask patients adhere to.
Can you imagine being treated for many ‘nasty things’ with an antibiotic, for which the body requires a daily dose until a course is completed, only for the doctor to say it does not matter if you miss a few days?
A doctor sets a discipline based on proven facts and testing for every medicine etc. that he prescribes, so who on this earth would take a non-medical and pure political view and alter our standards?
The answer in my view is solely based on the failure of the politicians to provide vaccines in the desirable volume, despite all the promises we keep hearing. Spread it more thinly would enable Hancock and mates to claim a vast increase in vaccinations.
I believe the Oxford vaccine may be unaffected by delays between the first and second injections – provided the company authorise that, but concentrating on the Pfizer vaccine, the ramifications/risks of disobeying the manufacturer’s instructions, are potentially serious.
As Pfizer say, there is no evidence that if the 21-day follow-up is not applied, that the initial vaccine remains effective or for how long.
Risk assessment suggests that a patient may lose any valid protection, especially from the latest version of Covid-19.
Such predicable results could mean that patients catching the virus could take the view that their doctor is guilty, there is a case of negligence by the NHS, or that the manufacturer provided unsuitable treatment. Pfizer may consider that to be an attack on their moral and quality product standards. In essence we would be in Breach of Contract and they could therefore stop supplying us.
We may vaccinate more people, but we could in parallel, cause more to catch the virus. How about that for a policy?
Reg Clifton, Wokingham
Heat for highways
We are concerned that the council’s highways team are not taking the climate emergency declaration seriously. There are many areas that the council needs to work on to fulfil its obligations to reduce carbon emissions as well as tackle air pollution that is shortening the lives of Wokingham Borough residents, and highways is a big piece of the puzzle.
One of the key areas that highways needs to focus on is improved infrastructure for walking and cycling. There is a planning application currently open for public consultation (application number 203535) which is the redevelopment of the roundabout that intersects Finchampstead Road with Molly Millars Lane, known as the Western Gateway to the South Wokingham Distributor Road (SWDR).
The junction is already at capacity for cars, and has poor infrastructure for those wishing to walk or cycle. The SWDR is being built to access the 2,500 houses being built along it.
The junction redevelopment is an opportunity to not just upgrade it, but to look holistically at the road network in the area and how a variety of road users can move about the area.
Sadly, now that we’ve seen the submitted plans, it is evident that a holistic approach has not been taken, we struggle to see how the plans will actually alleviate the pressures from vehicles on the junction from the 2,500 additional homes, and worse still, walking and cycling infrastructure is not improved.
In fact, we were horrified at the removal of the safe pedestrian crossing on the Finchampstead Road which is heavily utilised, particularly as it went against the advise of independent safety experts who state that there is a safety risk to members of the public.
We are firmly supportive of the need to do something, but what has been presented is woefully inadequate. Should you wish to comment on the planning application, you have until February 1 to do so.
Cllr Sarah Kerr and Cllr Maria Gee, Liberal Democrat Councillors for Evendons and Wescott Wards