Personal decision making in a post-virus world

August 15, 2020

My previous blogs have commented on the daily average numbers of deaths over the previous 7 days. On 13 April this reached a peak of 943 deaths per day which, during last week, had much reduced 50 or so deaths per day. However, we have now learnt that these numbers included deaths of people who may have contracted and recovered from the virus months ago and who later died of something completely different. The Government has now rightly excluded these numbers so that they now only include deaths of people who were identified to have the virus in the 28 days prior to death. This has reduced the average daily deaths over the last 7 days to 12.4 (14 August) – a staggering 98.3% reduction since 13 April. Obviously I understand why the Government wants to ensure that we all remain vigilant and do all we can stop the spread of this disease but I do find it strange that there has been so little publicity over this significant improvement.

When I read in the Times last week that there have been more child suicides in the UK during lockdown than there have been child deaths caused by the virus I begin to question the cost of the lockdown measures to the nation as a whole. In my role as CEO of a home care provider we interview many carers who have experience in care homes where they frequently tell me that the mood of the residents in care homes has changed dramatically because people who previously were vivacious and chirpy are now shadows of their former selves having become withdrawn and depressed. I do therefore question whether the measures taken to prevent infection are becoming greater than the other costs of taking those measures (especially if we add the cost to the economy, the jobs that have been lost and are yet to be lost and the delayed cancer and other medical treatments).

One of the key tenets of caring for our clients in their own home is to not to deprive them of the liberties. This basically means that clients who have capacity are entitled to make their own decisions even if they might not be the best decisions. Put simply our carers might advise a client to put on a coat if he/she was venturing outside on a cold day but it would not be within our remit to instruct a client to go outside with a coat. And yet we seem to be in a phase of our lives whereby the Government is instructing the most vulnerable what they can and cannot do by asking them to isolate themselves for months at a time. My biggest concern is that we, as a population as a whole, may continue to be instructed to behave in certain ways in the post-virus world in the interests of avoiding risks. Are we heading towards the day when we will be instructed not to go outside if it is icy outside or if the temperature is above 35 degrees or not to go sailing if the wind exceeds 25 knots? Surely the better solution is to equip people with the facts and the risks and let them decide for themselves what risk they want to take. I am quite sure that many of the elderly who know that they will not be able to enjoy too many summers ahead of them might, armed with good information, may choose to see their grandchildren rather than isolate themselves with very few other things that bring them happiness during their empty and lonely days.

Obviously I recognise that the Government has had a tremendously difficult task over the last few months but I implore it to aim to return our liberties to normal rather than some form of new normal when this crisis eventually comes to end.

John Rennison
15 August 2020

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