Britain’s lockdown shame – the story of the Forgotten 500k
October 17, 2022. Series 7. Episode 49
In this special episode we reveal the ongoing crisis being endured by the Forgotten 500,000 … those British people whose compromised immune systems mean they live in constant fear of infection, serious illness or death. For a large number of those men, women and children lockdown has never ended because of a government refusal to act. You’ll hear a shocking first-hand account from English Professor Martin Eve, who is now entering the 134th week of isolation at home. He’s joined by Dr Lennard Lee – a leading NHS oncologist who is campaigning with Martin to bring an end to this appalling situation. They want to see the introduction of the Cambridge made drug Evusheld which acts as a barrier against infection, allowing patients to live more normal lives. Although Evusheld has been exported and is being used successfully in 32 countries, it is being denied to people living here in the UK. This is the story of a crisis that has been out of sight and out of mind for too long. Please support the campaign if, after listening to this episode, you agree it’s time to act.
Martin’s Crisis Cures:
1st Crisis Cure – Providing a home for an unwanted pet: I found comfort in adopting an older dog from a shelter.
2nd Crisis Cure – Making music and creative writing : Creativity offers a fantastic therapeutic outlet and can put you back in control.
3rd Crisis Cure – Technology : Dependence on technology whilst I continue to shield gives me invaluable access to the people I love.
Campaign website – https://getevusheld.uk/500k/
Write to your MP here (letter templates available) – https://www.writetothem.com/
Sign the petition here – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/611884
Stream/Buy ‘Allies’ by Some Velvet Morning: https://ampl.ink/qp6bm
Some Velvet Morning Website: www.somevelvetmorning.co.uk
Your Daily Practice: Sleep by Myndstream: https://open.spotify.com/track/5OX9XgJufFz9g63o2Dv2i5?si=b2f9397c92084682
Host– Andy Coulson
Producer – Louise Difford
00:00:05.19 Andy Coulson:
Hello, I’m Andy Coulson and welcome back to Crisis What Crisis? The podcast which aims to guide you towards a more resilient approach to life and whatever it might throw at you. Much like our conversation with Jeremy Bowen in Kiev earlier this year, in this special bonus episode we’ll be focusing on a very real, very serious crisis taking place right now and it’s happening here in the UK.
00:00:28.18 Andy Coulson:
When we first started this podcast, just over two years ago, we were in the midst of the first national lockdown. For some, of course especially those who sadly lost their loved ones, life will never be the same. But thankfully for most of us, that surreal and difficult time is behind us. The world has opened up again, normality has resumed. And for the most part we’re back to leading lives free of restriction. And as ever with crisis, the memories of those dark days are fading fast.
00:00:59.01 Andy Coulson:
But just take a moment to imagine that wasn’t the case. Imagine in fact that lockdown never ended. That you could not visit your family, go to a football match, attend a wedding, meet your mates for dinner. Well, here’s the thing, for half a million people in the UK, with weakened immune systems, the immunocompromised, who’s health conditions suppress their immune systems, life has not moved on. And for a significant number of these people lockdown itself has never ended.
00:01:29.08 Andy Coulson:
Now what’s extraordinary is that we actually have the answer, we have the key to the door that would take them to the freedom that the rest of us have. It’s a drug called Evusheld, which acts to protect the vulnerable against infection in ways that Covid jabs simply can’t. The drug is available and being used successfully in thirty-two countries around the world. But bizarrely, it’s not used here in the UK and as a result the nightmare continues for many within that invisible group of people.
00:01:59.07 Andy Coulson:
So today we’ll be joined by two guest who are campaigning to bring an end to this long-running crisis for out of sight, out of mind, group of people. Martin Eve, the first of our guests today, is one of the forgotten 500,000. Martin is an English professor at Birkbeck University of London. He has suffered from a number of debilitating conditions including Rheumatoid Arthritis and Vasculitis. He’s also suffered from phenomena, sepsis and unfortunately a stroke. He has an immune system which simply won’t respond to vaccines, which means he has little or no protection from Covid. The consequence of all this is that his life, to put it mildly, has been on hold since the first lockdown.
00:02:43.04 Andy Coulson:
Also joining us is Dr Lennard Lee, a leading academic medical oncologist from the University of Oxford and co-lead of the UK Covid Cancer programme. Dr Lee has campaigned hard for the introduction of Evusheld in the UK. Welcome both to Crisis What Crisis?
00:02:59.22 Andy Coulson:
Martin, if I can start with you, you’re talking to me from home, obviously, give us an idea, please of what day to day life is like for you right now.
00:03:12.19 Martin Eve:
So ever since March 2020 life has had a very strange rhythm for me. It’s been an environment in which things are very routine-ised, monotonous, the same every day. We live in our house and we live in isolation from anybody else visiting us. There’s nothing spontaneous because everything has to be planned to take safety precautions so that we don’t contract Covid. While at the same time we’re also living in an environment of complete heightened anxiety. We live in a world where going to the shop, for instance, would pose a potential existential threat, a threat to my life if I contracted Covid.
00:03:57.10 Martin Eve:
And the things that just seem normal, everyday, mundane, things you wouldn’t get excited about are completely out of reach and require a kind of personal risk assessment for whether we can do it or not. So it’s the strangest existence I’ve ever had in my life, I was just a normal, you know, guy in my mid-thirties until 2019. And since then I’ve been under a kind of house arrest that also comes with this background sense of crisis, you know, aptly for this podcast, that really is there the whole time and inflects everything that we do.
00:04:35.06 Andy Coulson:
In terms of your work, you’re an English professor, you’ve been able to work remotely, the whole education world moved to the world of screens and Zoom calls and Teams calls during lockdown. But pre, which I imagine, for your mental health is incredibly important, right? Just to be able to, in and amongst this, at least get some work done?
00:05:12.24 Martin Eve:
So you know the life of academia is somewhat strange and I am very fortunate that I have been able to undertake my teaching duties remotely and that my employer is actually very protective and has helped me through the actual physical danger. So in those terms I can’t complain about my personal situation with work. On the other hand, you know, work is something that brings us meaning in life, it gives us opportunities to interact with colleagues. Going to academic conferences was a huge part of my life, you know, travelling and sharing exciting ides, that’s why you become an academic; it’s what you want to do in the world and spread that good.
00:05:54.01 Martin Eve:
I am completely locked out of those professional circles now because people have just gone back to complete normality, not even masks at events any more. And it’s again, on its own a small social interaction doesn’t mean much to people, you know, it’s something you think of as a glancing encounter. When those add up and you don’t get any of them, yeah, absolutely, it’s an enormous mental health burden.
00:06:20.20 Martin Eve:
I think the United Nations defines torture as fifteen days of solitary confinement. We’re now in the 900 days territory for how long people have been living in an environment where people can only visit us if they’ve isolated for ten days beforehand. I haven’t seen my two new-born nieces during the pandemic more than once because it’s impossible for my brother to get the time off work so he can isolate so I can be safe. And just these small things just cascade into a kind of environment that is not healthy.
00:07:00.14 Andy Coulson:
So if people want to come and see you, you gave your brother as an example, they need to isolate for ten days?
00:07:08.12 Martin Eve:
Absolutely, you know, we could relax that restriction but every time we do so it’s rolling the dice. People with my condition, which is that I was treated with a drug called Rituximab that depletes your immune system and it never recovered in my case from that, have extremely high infection fatality ratio. Early in the pandemic it was 27% of people with this condition who contracted Covid ended up dying from it. So you know, when that’s the balance you’re holding in your hands how do you say what’s safe and what’s ‘oh, well I’ll just take the chance and my brother can come and visit once’.
00:07:46.10 Martin Eve:
If that once turns out to be the once where you contract it, do you want to take a roll of the dice with a one in four chance of dying from it? And I don’t know, everything becomes a risk appraisal, everything becomes about thinking about statistics, the numbers, the chances, the benefits and you just end up thinking ‘well, it’s not worth taking these risks for your health, your life, your safety’. But then you do nothing that gives you any kind of stimulation or pleasure, I guess.
00:08:16.11 Andy Coulson:
Presumably when we all felt that we were heading towards the exit door with lockdown, presumably you had faith that you would be part of that thinking? That you assumed that you and people like you, wouldn’t be forgotten?
00:08:40.01 Martin Eve:
The pact that politicians put out was that we’re going to go back to a more normal pre-pandemic existence but we’re going to protect the vulnerable. That was explicitly the promise given by the prime minister. It doesn’t feel that that has been the case. A really good example is healthcare settings at the moment, the hospitals. So two weeks ago I was hospitalised with acute kidney failure, which was not ideal, not something I ever really wanted on my radar. In that healthcare setting I did not feel safe as somebody who was immunocompromised, because even in hospitals people are not wearing masks, they’re not isolating people who are immunocompromised because there isn’t the bed space. There just are not enough resources for special provisions to be made in all those spaces.
00:09:35.06 Martin Eve:
And so if you’re going to promise these things you should deliver on them. But it seems to me that because this is a relatively small population group and because this group aren’t capable of getting out on the streets and marching, because they’re isolated away, it’s a problem you can just sort of push away and hide and not really engage with. So because of my immune system problems I’m actually given an antibody therapy already called immunoglobulin. So every week I inject myself five days a week with a blood product from other people that gives me conferred immunity.
00:10:06.10 Martin Eve:
And that is one of the most fantastic things the NHS has ever done for me. It stopped me getting subsequent pneumonias, it stopped me having those previous hospitalisations that I had. And it was on that immunology ward, when Covid first struck, that I saw terror in people’s eyes because this is a group of immunocompromised people and they understood what Covid was going to mean. And the question that everybody was asking was, ‘when is protection going to be in this therapy that we get?’ And they said three to four years is how long it will take for that to filter through but there might be, in the meantime, a synthetic answer where an antibody will be created that we’ll substitute for that.
00:10:51.12 Martin Eve:
So from actually early March 2020 I’ve known that the answer is that we need to give this group of people preventive synthetic monoclonal antibodies so that they will have protection. And we’ve just been waiting for that research to come along where somebody’s found those long-lasting antibodies that would work. And then it was probably around November last year, that I first became aware of this drug Evusheld made my AstraZeneca in the UK and I thought that’s the one. We can see this is working, we’ve got other countries taking it up, the trial results look good, we’re ready to go.
00:11:31.07 Martin Eve:
Then it got authorised in March this year and I thought ‘wow, this is fantastic’, the government website trumpeted MHRA has authorised this therapy for vulnerable people and I thought finally, third Christmas is not going to be one that I spend on my own we’re going to actually have a good time and get out of this. And then we just waited and waited and waited and then they said the evidence wasn’t there against the new variants that have come out. And then they said ‘well new trials in place, that’s done that, oh it’s not good enough evidence’.
00:12:04.23 Martin Eve:
And we just kept looking at it and thinking, well hang on a minute, what evidence is ever going to be good enough for you if you’re just going to wait until the next variant comes out and then say we don’t know whether it works. And it just became clear, as we got now to September 2022, they’re not going to buy this, they’re just going to wait until it doesn’t work against any variant and leave us high and dry, again, for another winter.
00:12:29.24 Andy Coulson:
Let’s just pause there for a second, I’d like to bring in Dr Lennard Lee. Dr Lee, if you could, just tell us how you first became aware of this situation. One assumes that it was either via patients or perhaps it was from an academic perspective whilst we were in lockdown that you could see this situation emerging.
00:12:51.21 Dr Lennard Lee:
Thanks Andy, I guess the first thing I’d say is that it’s just very sad. I feel very sad hearing about Martin and what he’s gone through. And there are many people out there because they don’t have a good immune system and you can be immunocompromised both young and old. And for them they’re still in 2020. I find it really hard to hear that people have to take the chance, take a chance, risk, to see family and friends and actually they just want to have a Christmas.
00:13:19.10 Martin Eve:
And Martin’s one voice but actually as a cancer doctor, I talk to many cancer patients and they are also finding difficulties here about the ongoing risk to them and what more can be done. And that’s difficult. But to answer your question, I’m an academic lecturer at the University of Oxford. I helped co-found this UK Covid Cancer programme and we want to make sure that risk to cancer patients was reduced. We were lucky we put the data out there, we showed that chemotherapy had to continue through this pandemic and we know that we can treat patients safely, but not everyone responds as well to vaccination and that’s what our data will start to show and the UK was the first to show this issue amongst the immunocompromised.
00:14:04.08 Dr Lennard Lee:
The people who continue to be at risk are those who are unvaccinated or those who don’t respond to the vaccine and people like Martin because of his condition, all the drugs that he got. And that’s really why I came into this, from an academic perspective, but also because I see my patients and they’re telling me, ‘this is my life, this is my reality. I can’t go out and I want to go and see grandchildren’ and I think they’re in a very difficult situation. There are a lot of people in this situation and actually there is potentially a solution here for them.
00:14:41.23 Andy Coulson:
You’ve obviously been in and around our health system, or systems, for a number of years, seen the good and the bad. You know, it can be somewhat bureaucratic, it can be somewhat slow-moving, it can also be utterly brilliant at times, world-beating. But when you first kind of identified this issue what was your sort of emotional view about it in terms of well, surely we’re going to solve this? I mean, we moved so quickly, didn’t we? One of the great triumphs was the vaccine roll-out programme, where we sort of tore up the rule book and did things differently and just got on to provide the solution. And yet, that hasn’t happened here. But what was your view, Dr Lee, in the first instance as to how could that be? Why did that happen?
00:15:39.17 Dr Lennard Lee:
Well thanks Andy, well I guess I’m biased, I’m an NHS doctor, I’m proud of the NHS and what we’ve done in the pandemic so far. But in this case we could be quicker. The NHS pulled out the stops to get vaccines in people’s arms and they did it to the population. We also got lateral flows to people who needed it last Christmas, really quickly too. And I think we got our protection programme. So if you got infected then we’ll try our very best to treat you seven days a week where we can.
00:16:10.16 Dr Lennard Lee:
But in this situation, for this small group of high-risk individuals, I think we could have gone faster. I also think that the clinical community could also speak out a bit stronger and I think there are challenges here because it’s not just my cancer patients, it’s also the transplant doctors, kidney transplant, lung transplant and people with joint conditions and primary immune deficiencies and MS. And it’s so many different groups who are involved here.
00:16:36.21 Dr Lennard Lee:
And I think NHS patients want to be the first in the world to get the drug. They don’t want the drug to be going on to other countries first. Thirty-two countries have got the drug and it’s coming out of one of our own companies. AstraZeneca made our first vaccine but the drug’s now going out from Cambridge and across the world and by-passing the UK patients. And I think that’s quite a hard pill to swallow and I think Martin’s raised some issues here about why should he be the last to wait? Why should he not have the drug this Christmas when everyone, when they’re getting it in France, just over the border, does he need to go to Europe to get treatment before anyone else, to get it in the UK? And I think that’s really difficult. But look, I think the NHS are a wonderful organisation, we could be making our patients get the drugs the first, we can be trialling things quicker and in this situation I do think we could move to protect them this winter and I think giving people who are vulnerable protection is important. So multi-faceted answer there, Andy?
00:17:37.01 Andy Coulson:
No, very comprehensive. Let’s try and pick the argument apart a little bit, not apart but let’s look at it in a little bit more detail. Because thirty-two countries proven, as much as these things can be, to work. Why on earth then has it not been authorised, has it not been cleared for use? What’s your theory on why that is? Is it cost, actually? Is there a kind of slightly warped attitude being taken to the short-term cost of this? Because the long-term cost benefit, it seems pretty obvious to me, is to keep people out of intensive care apart from anything else. What’s the logic?
00:18:25.15 Martin Eve:
I think that’s what the clinical community would like to find out actually because to use a drug it has to be approved. It got approved in March. How many months ago is that? April, May, June, July, August, September. So you approve it over six months ago and then the next thing you need to do is to buy it. I think drugs cost money, getting good drugs in, anywhere across the world into the UK, never mind the fact that this is just available from Cambridge, takes time and cost. And I think you’ve also got to have someone who’s willing to say, ‘Look, let’s protect this group.’ It’s possible that the ingredient there weren’t quite right and therefore we will now follow slow processes.
00:19:04.16 Dr Lennard Lee:
But the UK led the world for the pandemic response, we were the first to show that with the immunocompromised at risk. Other countries took our data and said, okay, let’s go and protect them now. And they’ve been doing it since spring and these people now have been protected and they’ve been able to see their friends and family. And I guess Martin and others, just want Christmas now, just one Christmas after being in shielding for the last two. And I think it’s really difficult.
00:19:31.08 Dr Lennard Lee:
So I guess it’s someone willing to champion their cause and just ask to help this group. And I think the really tricky thing, and I guess the other issue Andy, is that these people, my patients, can’t go out and hold up placards saying ‘please help me, this is my reality, this is my life’, and they can’t come together and therefor they’re got to shout from virtual platforms. And they’ve done the right thing, they’ve asked you for help, they’ve asked a charity, they’ve asked their parliamentarians and now it’s up to us as clinicians and charities and MPs to make their voice known for them because Martin’s voice is only, at the end of the day, on Teams or Zoom call and that’s actually not as impactful. So it’s a very difficult situation and I think it’s difficult for them.
00:20:12.07 Andy Coulson:
Forgotten but by the very nature of the situation, invisible as well. And that, you know, often when we talk about crisis on this podcast, crisis of all different types, it often comes down, particularly for these kind of crises that will affect a large number of people, and especially those that might hit politics in some way, it often comes down to a group of people in a room. That’s what it is, there’s not some kind of algorithmic solution to these things. There’s a bunch of human beings sat in a room making a decision.
00:20:54.18 Andy Coulson:
We don’t want to name names but that’s what this requires, isn’t it, is a group of human beings in a room, recognising, with their eyes open and the empathy that’s required to realise that you don’t need a tremendous amount of empathy to realise just how awful a situation this is. To kind of pull their finger out and make this thing happen. Am I right about that? Or are there other kind of fairly significant barriers to this that aren’t obvious?
00:21:27.01 Dr Lennard Lee:
I think that’s right Andy, the decision needs to be made. I think Martin’s at the pointy end of the stick. The doctors which treat people who are immunocompromised hear about this pointy end and how much suffering is happening here, and we have a drug which the studies show works and the studies that’s come out of France, Israel and America all show it’s working for them too. So I guess a decision does need to be made. But I guess the question is to make a decision do you need another six more months to roll up for next winter or can you make a decision based on everything you’ve got now and make it happen in October, November, December, before Christmas?
00:22:03.15 Dr Lennard Lee:
I guess you can take a long time to make a decision and that is, if that is due process in the UK then I guess that is one argument, we will follow a long process and make… but I wonder if there’s another way, I wonder if you can imagine better where NHS patients can get the drugs first. They can access pilots earlier and we can protect our most vulnerable at the same time whilst letting all of us live a good way with Covid. But also let people out of this forgotten lockdown. I think that’s really the crux of the matter here, as you said Andy, it’s about making a decision and using the evidence available.
00:22:44.01 Andy Coulson:
Yeah, it’s another one that puzzles me because we’ve seen it with, you know we saw it with the vaccine roll-out. An amazing thing, done with the right motives and executed brilliantly. But let’s also be blunt about it, some political advantage, the fact that that worked as well as it did. And that political advantage that we’ve certainly been told about, and kind of fair enough really in a way, but that’s the other thing that puzzles me about this situation, this is a win politically. This could be yet another demonstration of how our systems work brilliantly for people who are vulnerable. Because some of those solutions actually are genuinely, terrifically difficult to be able to execute politically, this one isn’t. That’s what baffles me, why they haven’t grabbed the win. Martin, when we sit here talking about this in the way that we are, how does it make you feel? I mean, you fall on the word frustration, it doesn’t even come close, I imagine?
00:23:46.16 Martin Eve:
I think the thing that’s most distressing is how an entire group of people who have real lives, who are real people, who are suffering, get reduced to abstractions in the decision making process. You know, phrases like patient cohort really are just ways of thinking about a group of people as though they’re numbers and not actual people who are suffering and who can’t have full lives. And you know, it’s a thing I’m very used to, it’s a kind of objectifying discourse that goes around. But it still just feels, you know, you’re not talking about my life when you talk about, ‘oh we need to protect the vulnerable cohort’. All of these people have lives, they span people aged fifteen up to age ninety. It’s such a diverse set of people who are affected and really we just want to be treated like people and have our lives back.
00:24:45.14 Andy Coulson:
We’ll be right back after this.
00:24:51.05 Andy Coulson:
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00:25:34.01 Andy Coulson:
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00:25:59.16 Andy Coulson:
And now back to Dr Lee and Martin. We’ve heard a little about how it’s affected you. You talk, I know as you just touched on, you talk to a lot of other people who are also trapped in this nightmare. Some of them, the mental health effect of it, significant, to put it mildly. I mean, in those conversations that you’ve had, give us a flavour of those kind of conversations that you have because I know that together you’re all supporting each other but one imagines pretty dark conversations.
00:26:35.11 Martin Eve:
Well so, when we realised that there was this political block going on we set up a campaign to try to get Evusheld made available in the UK. And that involves putting your name out there as somebody “leading” a campaign. That has resulted though in my inbox being flooded every week with people writing in with absolute desperate stories. I’m not trained as a psychologist, I’m not somebody who can offer, I’m not even Samaritan trained, but people are telling me their lives are unbearable and they don’t know how they’re going to go on.
00:27:11.05 Martin Eve:
And I’m very fortunate that we have some clinical psychologists in the group who have said please refer them on to us. But I’m essentially fielding suicidal people in my inbox, trying to make sure that I help them in the best way that I can while having no background or training or anything beyond basic human empathy that I can offer them. You know, I try to give them some good stories about how we’re not giving up on you, we’re trying to get this for you, we’re trying to get life back to some kind of bearable state. But that’s the kind of peer to peer support we’re offering at the moment is trying to get people not to kill themselves.
00:27:48.18 Andy Coulson:
Goodness me. I mean, if that doesn’t sort of you know highlight just what an insane situation this is. In terms of the sort of services that are available to those people, other than talking to you, has there been any kind of recognition from the system that yes, we’ve turned this drug down but we’re there for you in other ways? Is it a sense of total isolation, I suppose is the question?
00:28:23.19 Martin Eve:
I think mental health services in this country are under incredible strain anyway. And that’s why the volunteer network we have is incredibly useful because there are good people out there who are helping us to handle this. But you know, the system is overloaded and the mental health impacts of not providing this drug are just not considered in the kind of regular processes.
00:28:52.07 Martin Eve:
So we’re actually now a stakeholder in the NICE consultation that is going through that will take another six, seven months and isn’t soon enough. But one of the things we’re trying to highlight in that consultation is the prolonged damage that shielding is doing to this group of people and their families and that it’s going to have multi-decade impacts on their lives at the rate we’re going.
00:29:16.09 Andy Coulson:
And that’s a point we haven’t perhaps spent enough time discussing. This is not even just about the individuals who are directly impacted, is it? It’s the wider family impact. I know you live with your wife. She, although is not immunocompromised herself, obviously has to live her live as though she were. And this is the case for anyone who is in your situation, it’s not just about you?
00:29:46.11 Martin Eve:
So one of my colleagues with whom I’ve been working on this, a guy called Mark, has two teenage daughters who have to go to school. And the way he has to live his life is that he sleeps in the summer shed at the bottom of their garden so that he doesn’t put himself at risk of exposure. People, families are living apart from each other, they’re sleeping in different places and we have other Lupus patients in a similar position, you know, haven’t seen their daughter for a two year period now. It is not just that small cohort of people who are very vulnerable, it has this whole network effect on people who can’t have normal lives and it’s tearing them apart.
00:30:32.20 Martin Eve:
You know, you’ve got to think of the economic impact. People have had to shut down their businesses. So a carpentry business I know of had to get rid of three employees because he couldn’t work with them anymore because he has to be in complete isolation. The economic impacts as well as the social impacts here, they’re far reaching and not well understood, it’s not just the essential people but the people around them as well.
00:31:02.22 Andy Coulson:
Dr Lee, what do we do? How do we kind of unblock this? I’m keen at this podcast, we use the word ‘useful’ wherever we possibly can, let’s try and make this conversation as useful as possible. What do we need to do here to try and help in what seems to be a frankly insane situation?
00:31:28.18 Dr Lennard Lee:
Thanks Andy, I guess what success looks like is that Martin wants next week, to have an injection and that’s Evusheld basically. The drug is given as a one-off dose and he wants to be protected over winter. That is what success looks like. I know the NHS, as big as it is, and as fantastic as it is, I know all the services it’s got are stretched, but actually if you let’s put this onto the NHS Formulary them doctors can give it and Martin will probably go to his next clinic soon and maybe he gets it there. I mean, that’s what success looks like.
00:32:04.02 Dr Lennard Lee:
I guess the reality that we face now is that it’s not on the NHS Formulary, it’s not available anywhere in the UK, it’s available in other countries but not the UK, it’s been shipped abroad, and he waits. And he’ll keep waiting until next winter but he’ll be there waiting. And the way I look at this is that I remember what it was like in March 2020 when it first came to the UK and how scary it was and how terrible it was not to be vaccinated, and I think I was at the frontlines and many other doctors suffered knowing that it was out there, it was in our hospitals, it was everywhere.
00:32:39.07 Dr Lennard Lee:
And I guess Martin’s probably seen the cases tick up week by week at the moment, in terms of Covid, and he’s now facing what everyone’s facing at that time point, not knowing what his protection is, knowing that it is still taking people and also making people end up in hospital. And I don’t think I want to go back to where I was in 2020, it was so hard for healthcare professionals, and everyone actually, when we went into lockdown. Martin’s done this for three years. And so success would be let him have Christmas, let him see his friends and family. Let others go back to their work, let people just have this normality that we’ve all taken for granted and that’s what success looks like.
00:33:27.01 Andy Coulson:
Okay, so Martin, the campaign is demanding what, more specifically? What can people listening to this podcast, for example, do to help?
00:33:36.06 Martin Eve:
So I guess first of all, a direct plea to the Secretary of State for help. Which is that senior members of the Conservative party, like Lord Lansley, have called this a failure of government. It would not take much to reverse that previous decision and step in and to put this right. I don’t know whether this will get through to Thérèse Coffey but that is the direct plea that would make the most difference.
00:34:05.13 Martin Eve:
People on the ground though, can help us really by writing to their MPs. So we have a website with some template letters that explain what Evusheld is, why it’s important, why this matters, that you can use to write to your MP. It’s getevusheld.uk. And really that direct political outreach does make a difference. MPs don’t know what’s going on in the wider world unless you write to them.
00:34:34.13 Martin Eve:
Signing petitions online is useful but it’s sort of the easy way out. Actually writing directly to your MP, saying please help these people, if they get more than one letter saying that suddenly actually it’s on their agenda and it becomes and important political issue. So really, that’s my plea, is become engaged with the politic system. You know, that’s what it’s there for, it’s supposed to represent people and we’d appreciate your help if you could write to them.
00:35:03.02 Andy Coulson:
Very good, and we’ll make sure that the website details that you’ve just given us are on the episode summary as well for the podcast that you’re listening to now. Martin, this podcast, in the main, is about conversations really, with people who have been through crisis with a view to understanding, discussing, sharing the strategies that they’ve used to cope, to get through. We’ll do it in our usual format, which is Crisis Cures, but give us three ways in which you have somehow managed to get through this appalling situation.
00:35:54.20 Martin Eve:
So yeah, who knows whether it’s a cure or not but I’ll do my best. So the first is two days before we went into lockdown in March 2020, we adopted a seventeen year old Jack Russell terrier. We went to the shelter and we said, ‘what animal does nobody else want and that you’ll most struggle to re-home?’ And I don’t know, caring for an animal that nobody else wanted is sort of a way of feeling that I’ve done something good for the world, you know, that also gives us pleasure and that felt like a responsibility to others that embodies a kind of care and compassion that is often missing in our conversations. So I think that’s one the first things for me, is looking after old dogs.
00:36:42.19 Martin Eve:
And I also love making music. I have a lot of synthesisers around me in this space I’m sitting here in and there’s something about creativity. I also enjoy my academic writing and the work that I do in the research space. There’s a sort of therapeutic effect to creativity and those kind of outlets. You can’t just summon that on demand always but you know, doing something where you’ve built something from nothing is really quite constructive and can make you feel as though you’ve got some control.
00:37:14.01 Martin Eve:
And I guess the last thing is we talked about the technology and how in a way it’s nowhere near as good as face to face, but it also struck me that the pandemic has shown us that we can connect via technologies. We have friends who live hundreds of miles away in Scotland, for example, and we’d only see them once a year. We now actually Zoom call with them every week. I see them a lot more than I ever did before the pandemic. And so learning that not everything from the pandemic that changed was terrible and that we can use these technologies to connect, has been something that has been a real support crux for me and helped me to feel I’m part of a network of people who care about me and love me and that that’s really worthwhile.
00:38:02.14 Andy Coulson:
Martin, thank you for those Crisis Cures. I don’t think anyone listening to this could fail to be moved by what you’ve had to tell us. I suspect they also, I’d be surprised if anyone listening to this would not feel surprised, let’s put it that way, let’s put it mildly, surprised that this situation exists at all. I’ve been around campaigning, both from a political perspective and also from the sort of media end over the years, you hear the phrase no-brainer applied but often that’s actually not the right phrase to use when you’re campaigning, it absolutely does in this case.
00:38:47.18 Andy Coulson:
I simply cannot see why this problem exists, let alone why this problem can’t be solved and I hope that this conversation contributes in some small way to it. If you’re listening please do get behind the campaign, getevusheld.uk is the website. Or use the hashtag #forgotten500k. Please do get behind the campaign. Dr Lee, Martin, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing this story with us and good luck.
00:39:21.06 Dr Lennard Lee:
Thank you Andy.
00:39:22.04 Martin Eve:
Thank you very much.
00:39:24.06 Andy Coulson:
If you’ve enjoyed this episode please do give us a rating and a review it really helps. And if you hit subscribe wherever you download your podcast from you’ll find loads more useful crisis conversations. And you can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook, our handle is @crisiswhatcrisispodcast. Thanks again for listening.