Five big themes for the nation to coalesce around

We are still in lockdown, deaths from COVID-19 continue to rise, and delays to the supply of vaccines are set to cause a slowdown in the rollout. So, are calls for a public inquiry to ask, ‘how did we get here?’ fair – or mistimed?

plant in hands
Getty/Anna Semenchenko

It’s a definition of insanity that is often quoted: ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’

And, while it turns out after some light Googling that these are not the words of the legend Albert Einstein, the thinking behind the principle still resonates.

I was reminded of it while listening to commentators on the Radio 4’s World at One yesterday (17 March), who were reflecting on the need to learn from the brutal reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the loss of 146,487 British lives.

How, the guests were asked, should the process of national self-reflection be handled – for example an independent review or a public inquiry – and when should the process begin.

As we encounter a “lump” in the supply of vaccines, in turn limiting the rollout programme during April, should all our minds remain focused on beating the virus, or is to put off a national review delaying inevitable hard truths we need to face up to and learn from now – with another winter seven months away? (Take OT’s poll below to tell us if you have had your vaccine yet.)

Historian Professor Peter Hennessy, whose frank yet considered take on politics in the UK always makes me stop, listen and think, pinpoints the areas that government – and society as a whole – must grapple with now.

Calling for a new age of “practical politics,” he argues that we can, indeed must, capture the “all-in-it-together spirit” we discovered during the pandemic in 2020.

“My great fear is we slip back to the way we were before – but I don’t think we need to,” he added.

In an unusually punchy statement on the back of the Budget, the NHS Confederation makes a clear case for urgent action to be taken today.

Highlighting that the NHS in England could face a hidden waiting list of nearly six million people who have not come forward or been referred for treatment due to the significant disruption brought about by the pandemic, the Confederation calls out “the failure of the Budget to invest appropriately in the NHS.”

Painting a stark picture, the Confederation calculates of the 4.52 million people on the waiting list in England, around 224,000 had been waiting over a year for their treatment, compared to fewer than 1,500 people at the end of 2019. One of the modelling projections in the analysis suggests the backlog could reach 6.9 million by the end of 2021.

Orthopaedics and ophthalmology referrals saw the greatest reductions in the last year, with the Confederation noting that these are clinical areas with conditions that could steadily worsen if left untreated.

A key component is the evolving role of primary care – which arguably best placed to decide what local communities need and how to allocate resources.

In the upcoming April/May edition of OT, we explore the ways in which eye care can, and is, remodelling itself to address the realities of COVID-19. We also put the COVID-Generation – the cohort of optometrists entering a profession in a time of great turmoil – in the spotlight, reflecting on how optometry students and pre-reg optometrists have adapted, and investigate what 2021 might hold.

As always, please do get in touch if you have an experience to share. Are you working on an initiative that is improving the way eye care is delivered? Email me.

OT  asks...

Have you had a COVID-19 vaccine yet? 

  • Yes, I have had one vaccine dose

    28 66%
  • No (I am 50+ or in a clinically vulnerable category)

    0 0%
  • No, but I have a date to be vaccinated

    0 0%
  • Yes, I have had both vaccine doses

    8 19%
  • No (I am 18-49)

    6 14%