Not only to all those within the NHS who are working so hard to save lives and who are so very deserving of our heartfelt thanks, but allow me this afternoon to once again on behalf of all of us thank the police, ambulance and fire services, pharmacists, food distributors and retailers and importantly, members of our armed forces for the hugely valuable part that each are playing in the battle against COVID-19. Our thanks too to all members of the armed forces whether they are at home or deployed overseas for what they do in keeping us safe.
Tomorrow morning the new Nightingale Hospital that has been set up at the EXCEL Centre in London will open its doors for initially, up to 500 COVID-19 patients. Ready before it is actually needed, transformation of the superb EXCEL Centre into a massive field hospital in little more than a week is a reminder of what we can all do if we put our minds to it.
I talked yesterday of HMG plans to transform various existing stadiums, exhibition and conference centres in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff into field hospitals over the coming days and weeks. Even if they are never used, an unlikely prospect as we watch events unfold, let no one call them white elephants please. The Government is right to have taken such swift action creating field hospitals and industry and commerce are also to be thanked for making these facilities available and placing no obstacles in the way.
AS the COVID-19 crisis runs its course over the next few weeks and months the probability is that all venues chosen to be transformed into field hospitals will be fully required. In all likelihood we will need more field hospitals to created and I am sure that there are many more possible locations close to towns that could be quickly transformed if required. Industry I know will rise to the challenge if requested to provide assistance and I sincerely hope that those that support industry and commerce will put their hands up if they happen to have suitable sites buildings that could, whilst out of use, be transformed into field hospitals, testing centres, laboratories and medical centres might be located. This isn’t a case of we will call you – it is to me a case of those that know they have a suitable location letting the Department of Health know.
There are literally thousands of possible locations all over the country that could be made available if required. For instance, with all exhibitions, conference, sporting and social events now cancelled for the duration including the Farnborough International Air Show it struck me last evening that the aerospace and security trade organisation ADS should be offering up its relatively new Hall One building at Farnborough as a possible temporary field hospital or testing centre.
Situated about 30 miles south west of London and within a wired and secure environment at one side of Farnborough Airport, with an Army Garrison nearby and being very close to excellent rail and motorway networks, the thought occurred to me that with the Farnborough Airshow cancelled making the new Hall One building available to the NHS might also be a way for the trade association to generate income that could partly offset the high cost of cancelling this year’s air show.
All trade associations need to rise to the challenge of assisting their members. For instance, amongst thousands of ADS member companies are those engaged in security, resilience, disaster relief together with those that have serious expertise in CBRN and PPE. These are member companies that I also well know pride themselves in innovative approaches and the ability to offer agile rapid options and solutions.
Individually ADS member companies have certainly not been conspicuous by their absence and it has been gratifying to see many examples of partnerships being created in order to design and manufacture some of the highly specialist medical equipment that we need. But, having received calls for help from a couple of small and medium sized companies seeking contacts that might enable them to offer their own specialist expertise, it isn’t easy to do that on your own. Time then for trade associations such as ADS to rise to the challenge at this crucial time.
Time to Crackdown on Those Taking Advantage
As ever, there can unfortunately be unintended consequences from the many superb and well-intentioned financial and supportive actions being taken by the Government right now to protect the masses.
Whilst I am unable to back this up with evidence, I am told that private dentists that have set themselves up as limited companies and whose clients/patients happen to be on an insurance scheme known as DenPlan may well be enjoying additional profits from the furloughed staff support being provided by Her Majesty’s Treasury.
Apparently it goes like this: Dentists receiving a regular DenPlan income and thus, are not seeing a huge reduction in monthly turnover and that may, at the expense of the state, also be having their staff wages bill reduced by £2,500 per person at the expense of the state for all but the skeleton staff they need to hold onto for the performance of the minimal emergency work – all that I understand that they are able to do right now – stand accused of making a profit at the expense of the state.
I am sure that if this is true most would agree that at this very serious time the Treasury must ensure that no one is able to make money from ‘loops holes’ such as this. White-collar profiteering is not just anti-social but is also a misuse of limited liability company protection and should be outlawed. It is to my mind exploitation at its worst and the Treasury should ensure that it immediately blocks any loop-hole that allows the worst of human kind to profit at the expense of others.
CHW (London – 2nd April 2020)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785