Boris Johnson, Partygate and NHS crisis: Appalling leadership failures make me fear for this country – Dr Asha Goyal
I was not allowed to be in the room with him. After his passing, I was not able to hug my brothers, or have visitors to share tears and stories, as is part of the ritual of mourning.
The funeral was limited to ten people, was socially distanced and his coffin was not allowed to be opened as is Hindu tradition. We took all these rules seriously and with grace. It was for the greater good and for our collective fight against this sickening pandemic.
In my professional life as a general practitioner, I have witnessed the devastating effects of the rules of confinement every day: on my elderly patients who were isolated; about my vulnerable patients with mental health issues; about children with social anxiety who I knew would struggle to return to school.
And yet, they all followed the rules.
During the first confinement, the staff of my office was in difficulty. There was a constant undercurrent of fear and anxiety in our patients which could come in the form of anger and frustration towards our team.
The staff were exhausted, scared and overwhelmed, yet they showed up to work every day to serve. We had two retirements at the start of the lockdown, staff members who had been with us for many years.
We discussed an idea of staying behind one evening, having drinks together, socially distancing for about an hour after work. Some of the staff’s justification was that they were together all day anyway and missed socializing.
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It was heartless and cold, but I had to discourage that. It was breaking the rules and unacceptable to me. Although he’s unpopular for it, that’s what it’s all about.
It’s about making unpopular decisions and leading by example. It’s about showing integrity in your actions as well as in your words. It’s about supporting your staff with empathy and care, while always keeping the big picture in mind.
So if I followed the rules and encouraged my staff and patients to do the same, why couldn’t the very person who made those rules follow them himself? If I was making sacrifices – personally and professionally – why were our leaders hosting and attending illegal parties?
I’ve never been particularly political, but this pandemic has made me sit up and take notice, and I’m appalled by what I’m seeing – of course by parties and the unethical behavior of many politicians during this pandemic. But also in a broader sense by the neglect of my profession, by the underfunding of primary care for so long that it is now in crisis, and by the fact that colleagues are broken and burned out.
I fear for my profession which is on its knees and in an unsustainable situation. And I fear for a country where the leader has been fined for breaking the law and yet is allowed to remain in his role.
Dr Asha Goyal is a GP in the West of Scotland and has worked in the NHS for over 20 years