Boris Johnson on why hero NHS staff are Britain’s No1 defence against threat from Coronavirus – The Sun

THE whole world is ­holding its breath. Across the United ­Kingdom, the public is understandably concerned.

Is coronavirus going to spread? Do we face a global pandemic? And if so, is the UK ­prepared?

In the early hours of Friday I was walking the corridors of Kettering General Hospital, talking to the NHS professionals who may well be in the front line.

I saw some of the extraordinary steps they have already taken in case the illness spreads further in this country.

They showed me a new coronavirus pod, a special sterile cabin outside the hospital, where people can come to be checked.

About a dozen people have already been tested here. All have been negative.

I was amazed at the care and thought that has gone into the design of the facility, and the speed with which it was built.

And yet our greatest defences against disease are not pods or screening systems.

Our most important resources are not drugs or vaccines.

On Thursday night in Kettering I saw this country’s greatest assets in the fight against sickness of any kind.

Our greatest defence is the staff of the NHS.

I am 100 per cent confident in our medical resilience — and that is because I have seen our doctors and nurses in action.

Hour after hour, as night turned to morning, I could see how they cope with the incoming wave of human anxiety. I could see their devotion. I could see the love and the care they give.

There was a poor young kid who had bashed his head falling off a scooter, and another who had gone into anaphylactic shock after eating peanuts.

There were babies with stomach complaints, and elderly people who had chest pains or who had fallen downstairs.

Top priority

By pure fluke I met someone I knew, and whose life had very ­probably been saved by the brilliant cardiovascular surgery team at Kettering Hospital.

By now it was about 2am. He was surprised to see me, as I loomed above his bed.

But he was full of hope and ­happiness and, above all, he was full of praise for the staff. And so were all the patients.

I talked to people who had been waiting for too long — for hours — yet they all said the same thing.

“The people here are fantastic,” I was told. Or, “They are doing an amazing job.”

It was clear to me that the patients come to this hospital precisely because it has a good reputation.

They come to the ­emergency department (the A&E) because they know they will be treated with consummate professionalism.

In fact, the patients are generally treated so well that sometimes it can be hard to persuade them that the time has come for them to leave.

Sometimes their relatives are so overwhelmed by the duties of care that — understandably — they would rather keep them in hospital, even when it is no longer strictly medically necessary for them to stay.

In a hospital with about 490 ­general or acute beds, there are about 100 patients who could actually be discharged.

And that is why I am so determined to fix the social care system — so that, as far as possible, we care for people in their own homes.

That is a top priority, both for me and for Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

We can fix it, we must and we will — and in so doing we can give more dignity to people in their old age, and end some of the pressure on our ­hospitals.

And it is to ease that pressure that we are now putting so much cash into our NHS. They were doing extraordinary work in that emergency department.

But the building is now outdated, and the layout is so maze-like that extra staff are needed just to monitor all the rooms. There is no privacy for breastfeeding, and nowhere to break the news of bereavement.

That is why we are investing first in a new emergency department at Kettering. In fact, we have given the seed funding for a whole new ­hospital as part of the biggest ever cash boost in the NHS.

Kettering will be among the 40 new hospitals that we will start in the next few years.

Real difference

I look at those dedicated health professionals, working in those ­conditions; I listen to the warmth and praise of their patients.

And I think — imagine what they could do if they had the fantastic 21st Century facilities they need and deserve, not just in parts of the hospital but throughout the whole estate.

Yes, of course it is right that we should be concerned about the ­possible spread of coronavirus.

It is certainly right that we should prepare and listen to the advice of the Chief ­Medical Officer — especially about the importance of washing our hands.

We should be doing that for 20 seconds with soap, and more often than we would normally think necessary.

This will make a real difference in stopping the spread of this virus.

Coronavirus may very well be a challenge in the weeks and months ahead.

But I have no doubt that with the help of the NHS and its ­incomparable staff, this country will get through it — and beat it.

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