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Should the government stop claiming the response to COVID-19 is world class?

I don’t know about you, but I am getting rather tired of the government claiming that some of the measures it has taken are world class when in reality they are not. Ministers seem to have adopted a new vocabulary glibly trotting out phrases like this is world class, or this will be a game changer. However, in reality when we look back at the evidence few of the measures that have been launched have lived up to expectation or should I say hype. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

The tracking app

You will recall that this was launched as a game changer for tracking and tracing people who had the virus. Following a month’s trial on the Isle of White it ran into technical difficulties and turned out to be a damp squib. To recover lost ground and to save face we were told that the government had turned to Microsoft and other high-end tech companies to help solve the problem. We are still waiting for feedback on any progress.

Track and Trace

Figures on track and trace which is essential to the control and prevention of the spread of the virus remain disappointing. The government have spent millions on the recruitment of workers to track and trace people who may have contracted the virus. Experts believe that we must be able to trace at least 68% of people who have been in contact with a case of confirmed COVID-19, if we are to gain control over the virus. Latest figures show that the tracking and tracing rate can be as low as 42%.

Testing

Despite all the talk of ‘we will fix it’, there is still a gulf between the rhetoric and what is actually being achieved. As recently as this week we have learned that some of tests used in social care services are not fit for purpose and have had to be withdrawn.

Providers of care services and those following domiciliary care polices and procedures are continually reminding ministers that tests are not available for all care workers. This is despite the appalling death rates in care homes as a consequence of COVID-19. Testing continues to be a major problem where the government fails to meet its own targets.

Personal Protective Clothing

The availability of PPE has improved, but this could be down to more countries removing their citizens from lockdown resulting in less demand. It must be hoped that the government has learned the lesson on relying on suppliers of PPE from abroad, and instead in now investing in suppliers at home. Few will forget the shambolic scenes at a Turkish Airport with grounded planes carrying PPE for the UK, with nurses and carers in desperate need of it.

Summary

Can I say at the outset no one doubts that this government has been faced with a monumental task in trying to gain control of the pandemic? History in the long run will judge the performance of the government and its ministers. But the government has a responsibility to inspire confidence in its people on the measures it is taken to combat the virus. There is however a great deal of evidence in the examples cited in this blog that the rhetoric has not been matched in reality or performance.

Overtime, the language used by government superficially claiming that things are world class and we have identified game changers begin to lose their gloss. If the use of superbly used by ministers is designed to give us hope and confidence, then I believe it has been counterproductive. Surely it is far better, not to say something is world class until the outcome is known, and there is evidence to prove it.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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