In the midst of a global pandemic, the birth of a baby is a joyful sign of life continuing as usual. The safe arrival of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s son, Wilfred, last week hit the headlines, but I am aware there are hundreds of new babies and new parents across the Brentwood and Ongar constituency who are coping with a life-changing event at a time when the usual levels of family support and cuddles are limited by lockdown.
Babies have a wonderful ability to arrive when they are ready, and there is no way of stopping them. Midwives and maternity healthcare workers are having to go about their work with extra care – they cannot close down their wards or delay treatment.
In the initial stages of this coronavirus pandemic, we were all told to try to stay away from hospital to allow staff to cope with the hundreds of patients all needing very similar treatment at the same time for the effect on the respiratory system typical of COVID-19. Elective surgery was cancelled and cancer treatment put on hold.
A&E attendances dropped by 50% compared to the same period last year. Some of this is due to lower road traffic and people following the social distancing rules. Some of this is due to people realising they can get online or phone advice from their GP or 111, or visit the pharmacist for basic health inquiries. But, in some cases, people who genuinely needed emergency treatment were not coming forward, or leaving things too late.
That’s why Health Secretary Matt Hancock is making it clear the NHS is open for business, and not just for babies. If you’re worried about chest pains for instance, maybe you might be having a heart attack or a stroke, or you feel a lump and you’re worried about cancer, or you’re a parent concerned about your child, the message is loud and clear - please come forward and seek help as you always would.
So this week, let’s continue to appreciate the work being done by everyone in the NHS – from the front line staff to the PPE procurement teams, from the porters to the delivery drivers. And let’s celebrate new life too – even if you have to wait a little while to cuddle those newborns in the family.