"This is not about civil liberties, it's about life-saving measures"

Our chairman, Dr Peter Carter has written this piece in the Nursing Times. Please take heed of his advice; if you are not a key worker please stay at home. #StayAtHomeSaveLives

"While it is self evident that the majority of the population are following the advice from the government to self isolate and wash hands regularly the reality is that a small but not insignificant minority are not following this advice and are putting all of us at risk.

The government seems to not realise that through time immemorial, behavioural change only happens when there is legislation and enforcement.

Reflect on the significant behavioural changes in British life over many decades.

No smoking in public places. Many readers will recall that an evening in a pub meant that you had no choice but to inhale the smoke of others and the next morning your clothes were impregnated with the repugnant smell of tobacco. Only legislation changed this, consideration for others did not.

Seat belts and helmets. The wearing of seat belts and crash helmets. You would think no one in their right mind would ride a motorcycle without a helmet, however, that was the norm. In the 1970s I worked on placement in the casualty department at St Albans City Hospital.

It was commonplace that people were brought in following a road traffic accident with significant facial injuries having gone through the windscreen of a car because they were not wearing a seat belt.

The government of the day had an advertising campaign “Clunk click every trip” – commendable maybe, but it was only when legislation was passed that behaviour changed. This legislation cut the injury rate dramatically.

The breathalyser. In the 1960s when the then Minister of Transport Barbara Castle introduced the breathalyser, she was vilified. A BBC journalist described her idea as “a rotten idea” and bizarrely asked her, “You're only a woman, you don’t drive, what do you know about it?”

Thankfully Barbara Castle was not deterred and the action of the then UK government has saved countless lives.

This government should have heeded the words of Thomas McKeown the highly respected physician, epidemiologist and historian who said, “Public health boils down to the extent to which the government is prepared to interfere in the lives of ordinary people”

How anyone could have continued to go to pubs after the government warning and seeing news shots from Snowdonia who reported its busy ever day is baffling.

Ski resorts in Scotland had huge numbers of skiers on Saturday; thankfully they are all now closed.

West Wittering beach in East Sussex had to be closed as “thousands” of people turned up. I could go on.

Experience should have told the government that enforcement was needed and I now urge the government to act immediately.

This is not about civil liberties, it is about life-saving measures.

Meanwhile thousands of nurses, other public servants and many workers in essential services are putting their health at risk, often helping the very people who may have acted selfishly.

Act now in all our interests." 

Dr Peter Carter

Dr Peter Carter OBE has been Chairman of St Andrew's Healthcare since July 2019.

A senior-level consultant, Dr Carter has held a long and varied career in the healthcare sector.

Having started out as a psychiatric nurse, Dr Carter moved into more operationally focused roles, becoming Director of Operations at North West London Mental Health Trust and being appointed Chief Executive in 1995. He then took on the role of Chief Executive for the Royal College of Nursing, and has since been asked by NHS Improvement to take on interim Chair roles for NHS Trusts to help them improve performance.