By Director of Nursing, United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust

Column by ULHT’s Dr Karen Dunderdale, Director of Nursing/Deputy CEO and Director of Infection Prevention and Control

The change in the weather marks the beginning of a very busy time for the NHS.

With colder temperatures comes the increase in cases of flu and norovirus, as well as COVID – which is why we all need to play our part in protecting ourselves and each other.

At this time of year norovirus, or the winter vomiting and diarrhoea bug, is common. It is highly infectious and easily spread through close contact with someone, or by touching surfaces which have germs on them or eating food prepared or handled by someone who has norovirus.

Symptoms are typically, feeling sick, diarrhoea, being sick and can be associated with a high temperature, aching arms and legs and headache. Symptoms usually start one-two days after being infected and usually you will start to feel better after two-three days. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to stop it spreading. Alcohol hand gels do not kill norovirus.

Another infectious bug is the influenza (flu) virus. For the majority of people, flu is unpleasant but not life-threatening. However, it can be very serious for those groups at risk of developing complications including people with weakened immune systems, as well as those with underlying conditions such as liver, lung or renal disease, heart problems or diabetes and pregnant women.

Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You’re more likely to give it to others in the first five days. Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
To reduce the risk of spreading flu ensure you wash your hands often with warm water and soap and use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze then bin used tissues as quickly as possible.

The flu vaccination is offered to every ULHT member of staff free of charge. Members of the public can contact their GP to find out more about how to get a flu vaccine. The vaccination is free if you are aged over 65 years, are pregnant, have a long term condition (such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease or multiple sclerosis) or are a carer.

As COVID is still with us, I would encourage those who are eligible to get the free vaccinations, and booster when they are contacted to do so. This has been a vital step for the country in the fight against COVID and in protecting ourselves and those around us.

Good hand hygiene can also help to limit the spread of infections and there are some simple steps that we can take to help stop viruses spreading. These include washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food. If you’re in a hospital, pay attention to hand hygiene notices such those asking you to use alcohol-based hand rub upon entering and leaving the ward. Also continue to wear a mask whilst in NHS healthcare settings.

People worried about prolonged symptoms should contact NHS 111 or ring their GP, not visit their surgery. They will be able to provide advice for people who are at greater risk from dehydration from diarrhoea and vomiting, such as young children or the elderly.

How to practice good hand hygiene

  • Ensure you regularly use alcohol hand rub available on all wards to clean your hands, especially before touching patients
  • Wash your hands with soap and water when anyone has diarrhoea, to prevent the spread of infections such as norovirus which can be a problem during the winter months
  • If you have symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting do not visit the hospitals until you have been clear of these symptoms for at least 48 hours

Dr Karen Dunderdale is the Director of Nursing at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

The latest episode of government sleaze, focusing yesterday on allegations that Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab used his taxpayer funded mansion to host a Conservative party campaigning event, means that allegations of government corruption simply won’t go away.

Less than a fortnight ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to speak publicly whilst at the COP 26 summit to attempt to reassure the world that our country isn’t corrupt, but each scandal following on swiftly after the last paints a different picture.

Last week, widespread concerns were raised that second jobs cloud the judgement of MPs whose basic pay is £80,000 per year.

Last month, local press reported that the MP for Lincoln had been found guilty of breaking the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament three times after failing to declare his ties to a family firm ironically named “Moonlighting.”

Labour have been unequivocal in saying that they would ban second jobs for MPs with the exception of public service jobs within areas such as the NHS, Police and Army Reservists.

All this background noise drowns the very real issues facing Lincoln residents whose everyday worries include: Government’s removal of £20 per week from families claiming Universal Credit. In Lincoln there are 10,800 families with 7,008 children living in households who claim the benefit. Low wages locally mean that many families rely on benefits to “top-up” earnings which simply don’t cover rising housing, heating, and food costs.

Earlier this month, the Tory government broke its manifesto pledge and voted to suspend the Triple Lock. This was brought in to ensure that yearly pension increases keep up with rising prices and this will force hardship onto both current and future state pensioners.

Our NHS is struggling because of shortages of both doctors and nurses, as well as ambulances queueing outside of A&E departments right across the country. On a visit to an NHS hospital recently Boris Johnson chose not to wear a face covering, at a time when staff are expected to wear a mask for the entirety of their 13-hour shifts. The PM displayed a shocking lack of leadership or willingness to abide by the rules the rest of us respect in order to help bring the COVID pandemic to a close.

Government voted changes through yesterday to the funding of social care, measures which mean that the poorest in society will pay as much as the wealthiest. The £86,000 cap on lifetime costs means many people may end up having to sell their homes to pay for care, something Boris Johnson promised the country wouldn’t happen.

“Levelling-up” is a Conservative election promise which has been broken time and time again over the last two years. At a time when this country needs strong leadership after a pandemic the reality is that we aren’t getting it. Our country and our city quite simply deserve better.

Karen Lee was the Labour MP for Lincoln between 2017 and 2019. She is an NHS nurse and a Labour County Councillor for the Cathedral and Ermine ward of Lincoln

“And now the end is here, and so I face that final curtain” goes the opening line to the song immortalised by Frank Sinatra. They have now become the new national anthem of the United Kingdom as it slips inexorably towards dissolution.

In real time reality the United Kingdom has already gone. While it hangs on as a polity it has long ceased to be a nation, an anachronism at best and a relic of empire at its worst. Like many of the pluralistic democracies of the world it continues in its zombie state because of the fear of change and the mistaken belief that past glories offer a workable substitute to a promising future.

The four nation United Kingdom is on simple observation in the same condition that the old British empire was at the end of its decline, struggling against political corruption and facing populations who have lost all faith, not only in the political parties but in the political system itself. There is no solution ahead in maintaining the status quo, nothing short of a revolution will effect any change at all. This is not a matter of repair but of tearing down the ruin and building anew.

At the political party level we have two ossified and defunct entities both long dead in terms of ideas and integrity. To paraphrase the journalist Peter Hitchens the only reason either of them is still standing up is because it is leaning on the corpse of the other. Quite simply, the problems the UK is facing are not ever going to be resolved by a general election, or for that matter by some Farage style maverick with a set of tap room wisecracks.

The UK needs root and branch reform and that includes dissolution of the Union as it still stands. Time and time again we have heard politicians talking of what they will do when they are in power and time and time again they have let us down. Switching the current Conservative in name only government for a Labour in name only government will achieve nothing if they are elected into the current system.

And what about the system? The UK claims to be (one of) the oldest democracies in the world. We have in effect only been a democracy in the true sense of the word since 1928 when The Equal Franchise Act of that year gave women equal voting rights with men. Not quite a hundred years then. The UK as a political entity is also a lot younger than our colourful history suggests. The Act of Union 1707 post-dates many of the suggested ‘origins’ of Britain by some centuries.

It is however old enough to call time on it, time indeed to put it behind us and move on to a prosperous and fair future for all the nations that currently constitute the United Kingdom. It’s time to become nations of the 21st century not of the early 18th or for that matter the imperial power of the late 19th. A democracy where a citizens’ vote does count and where government is about governing for the benefits of the citizen, not the vested interest and certainly not for the benefit of the political elite.

Dissolution of the Union could bring this about. It is inevitable that both Scotland and Northern Ireland will leave the UK in the near future. It might be during the tenure of the current Prime Minister if his own party don’t stab him in the back first. It is a fact that one of that crowd of 650 MPs now sitting in the House of Commons will be the Prime Minister that presides over the dissolution of the UK. That is oddly something that most of them fear, they should embrace it instead.

This dissolution of the UK would bring great opportunities. The root and branch reforms our society needs cannot be delivered by the current system. Dissolution would give all four of the nations opportunities that the United Kingdom never can. England will not be a loser in this it will benefit in so many ways. The new independent England can be freed from the ossified historical theme park it currently inhabits.

The Bill of Rights of 1688 can at last be rewritten into a modern constitution. The monarchy can be abolished as a political entity, the House of Lords, perhaps the most preposterous institution that could ever exist in a country that calls itself a parliamentary democracy could be totally scrapped and replaced with an elected second chamber. Regional governments could be given executive power in a federation rather than governed as medieval fiefdoms from Westminster

Why wait for Scotland to declare independence and for the population of Ireland to vote to unite with the Republic? A UK government should take the initiative and go now.

The irony is that Brexit was the final call for the UK. Leaving the EU did not preserve the Union or strengthen Britain’s role in the world, it hastened its demise as a political entity giving Scottish nationalists and Northern Irish pragmatists all the encouragement they needed. The Brexiteers voted the UK not only out of the EU but very soon out of existence.

Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.

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