We always knew that today was going to be a different kind of Friday and so it turned out to be. I had a (routine) appointment for a CT scan in one of our local hospitals and the arrangements for this were interesting. Instead of making my way through the bowels of the hospital towards the Imaging Centre, instead I was directed towards a ‘mobile’ scanning unit which was situated in a pair of relocatable buildings erected in the hospital car park. This arrangement is no doubt safer because you are not breathing in potentially COVID-19 infected air or touching surfaces inside the hospital but rather the improvised treatment unit can (by design) only handle one patient at a time which must enhance the safety. I got there way before time but the car park was full to bursting so it was a nightmare trying to find somewhere to park. Nonetheless, I made my way to the unit and had my scan which must have only taken ten minutes for the whole procedure. Whilst waiting for my cannula (for the injection of a radio opaque die) to be removed, I chatted to the nurse who happened to be Spanish so we spoke in a mixture of castellans and English, swapping experiences of COVID-19 across our two societies. Needless to say, ‘Silvia’ had not seen her family for months and months – her husband, it transpired, hailed from Porto (Opporto in English) which is where Meg and I had a holiday booked last May but which we evidently had to abandon. So I got home to meet the happy throng of our son, wife and domestic help before a much needed cup of coffee. As it was a fine and bright day (but pretty cold outside), Meg and I decided to make a lightning visit to the park for a mini constitutional little walk in the park. There we met with some of our park friends who were not really expecting us because I had told them of my hospital visit. I was explaining to my new found ex-Birmingham University friend how I got into the string of research which was to climate in my Phd because a happy chance. After the fall of Maggie Thatcher, John Major took over and he wanted one ‘big idea’ to follow Thatcherism. This turned out to be the Citizen’s Charter. and then the Patient’s Charter in the NHS. One of the key metrics for the latter was that all visitors to the hospital out-patients’ departments should be seen within half an hour. Through the good offices of one of my part-time students who worked in Quality and Infection Control at Leicester General, I was asked to give some help in devising a measurement instrument for measuring outpatient waiting times. To cut a long story short, we devised a measurement instrument and I provided all of the statistical analysis in the form of reports divided by consultant. The hospital management then used the data I provided to institute whatever changes they could to reduce waiting times. The end result of all of this was that we reduced the waiting times from only about 48% seen within 30 minutes to about 85% in the course of three months. A stream of further papers followed, around which a ‘Quality Management’ PhD was written which was then submitted to de Montfort University which had changed its regulations allowing a a PhD to be submitted around a series of published papers. Having got my PhD in 9997, I was then a bit more marketable and went off to get a job as Professor of Business Informatics at King Alfred’s College which later became the University of Winchester. And the rest is history.
Tonight, there is the news that the Kent variant of COVID-19 appears to have a higher mortality rate than its predecessor, which is the kind of news that none of us particularly wants to hear. But there is some news to mitigate the gloom. Firstly, whatever evidence there is tends to suggest that the vaccines that we have are just as effective against the new variants of the virus as well as the original. And today, it appears that 400,000 more people (0.4 million) have been vaccinated in a single day, which really is a marked acceleration in the rate of vaccinations (largely as a result of new centres coming into service) The final hint of good news is that the ‘R’ rate seems to have dropped to between 0.8 and 1.0 which is good news as it stands. But the hospitals are still having to bear the brunt of whatever the infection rate was some three to four weeks previously, a proportion of which ends up in the hospital wards. There now seems to a near consensus building up that whilst the second wave is proving much more traumatic than the first wave, the numbers of people at work (and children of ‘key workers’ in schools) are so much greater than first time around and this is almost certainly aiding the increased rate of transmission of the virus.