We’re now in the grip of the first global pandemic since 1918. Cool!
While countries like Vietnam and Italy have locked down completely to try and combat the spread of coronavirus, the UK is… pootling along as normal.
It’s leading to fears that when the virus starts spreading more rapidly, the NHS will be unprepared.
They’re not unfounded.
A thread by Twitter user Mike Tinmouth offers a frightening look into how overwhelmed our health service could be if everyone converges on it at once.
Returning from a trip to Thailand, Mike developed a “runny nose, headache and mild cough,” along with a temperature of 39C.
So, like any sensible human who’d read a scrap of news recently, he decides to self-isolate.
He then proceeds to call the NHS helpline but gets an automated voice and the promise of a call back.
When the return call does come, they tell Mike he’s just got flu – even though he’s just returned from an at-risk country.
Mike’s symptoms worsen and he suspects this is not, in fact, “just flu”.
So he stays in bed and continues to try and get medical advice, while battling a severe cough and a temperature of 40C.
Six days after developing symptoms, he’s told he needs to get a test for coronavirus, which he orders online and then has to wait for another call back.
But then there’s problems with paperwork that means his test booking has to be resubmitted.
At this point, Mike says he is so desperate he messages health secretary Matt Hancock on Instagram.
Hancock does not reply.
On Tuesday Mike then finds out that his previous calls hadn’t been logged and he’s not on the test list because the new government helpline only came into action after the weekend. It’s eight days since he first showed symptoms.
After more wrangling, he finally manages to book a test – but is told he won’t get results for another five days.
But the NHS worker confirms he should definitely have had the test... a week ago.
He’s spent so long on the phone, his illness is starting to pass.
NHS workers describe the service as “overwhelmed,” says Mike.
And he’s still not had the test.
Mike’s experience is just one of uh… many (uh oh) and NHS England announced yesterday they’re ramping up testing turnaround times, so the situation may improve.
But it’s frightening nonetheless as NHS bosses also warn of an surge in demand on intensive care.