A message from the President: Kindness and Compassion, not war

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20 Mar 2020

I wanted to share a few thoughts with you at this most difficult time. I am sure many of you are working flat out at the moment trying to protect your patients from the worst outcomes of this virus. Equally many of you who are long retired from the profession will be understandably worried about keeping yourself virus-free. Those of us, like me, who are recently retired will be contemplating the return to work to help support our colleagues.

That said, I have found it disappointing to see some of the references to the current COVID-19 situation being referred to as a “war”. Talk of war cabinets and military comparisons in this situation are unhelpful and do nothing to ease the anxiety of those who are in “at-risk groups”, particularly the elderly, who are facing a prolonged period of self-isolation. It is important to recognise that you, the NHS and the Government are doing everything possible to protect the elderly, the vulnerable and the poorly.

Many of the measures being undertaken are unprecedented and extreme but are being implemented in order to help everyone. This is coming from a place of genuine kindness and concern rather than any military campaign. I want to emphasise the positives of the steps being taken. You and other healthcare workers will use every service at your disposal to make patients better and care for those who cannot look after themselves. There will inevitably be a loss of life but, if everyone plays their part and follows the necessary guidelines, we can prevent avoidable deaths. At times like these, we can see the worst in people but, more importantly, also the huge inspiration of the best. Let us concentrate on the huge number of extraordinary acts of kindness and caring in communities who are responding to look after those who are feeling isolated and threatened.

The country is coming from a position of kindness, compassion and care. There is no place for selfishness. Whether it is healthcare workers, family, friends or neighbours, we all must work to ensure vulnerable people are prepared and looked after as much as possible. It has never been more important for communities to come together and show kindness and responsibility.

I am urging all of my family and friends to check on their elderly family and neighbours, offer to collect their shopping and prescriptions, video call them whenever possible or simply pick up the phone more often than not. Social isolation is not pleasant for the elderly but is essential in order to look after them.

So, likening the situation to wartime, I believe, sends the wrong message. This is not about fighting but caring and protecting. With all the media coverage and dismal predictions, it is not surprising that elderly people at home alone think that this is a hopeless situation. We must be positive about their future care and protection. This is one of the biggest challenges facing us in three generations but, by acting responsibly and with compassion, kindness and care and a community spirit, we can go a long way to minimise the impact of this disease.

I wish you all the best in your endeavours whatever stage of life or career you are at. The College is here to support you in whatever way we can.

Professor S Michael Griffin, President

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