Women on the front line fighting coronavirus

Donate to COVID-19 Relief here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rhg

Frances Scott, Founder & Director 50:50 Parliament 25 March 2020
Frances Scott, Founder & Director 50:50 Parliament 4 April 2020

As I write I am in self isolation, with a vague lingering sore throat and a dry cough. I wonder if I have coronavirus. It is a very frightening prospect. Who is going to help me fight this? 

I know who – if it gets really bad it is the nurses on ICU that will be there on the front line fighting this disease with me. 

I also know what wonderful people and skilled staff these foot soldiers of the NHS are. They looked after my dear husband Richard when he got the flu and developed complications three years ago. After a week in bed with what we both thought was just bad seasonal flu Richard, a fit and healthy 61 year old was still not well. In fact he could hardly breath or walk but the puzzling thing was he did not have a raised temperature, it was so confusing – I now know that this is a sign of septicaemia. 

I got him to A&E but by the end of the day he had multiple organ failure, his heart, his lungs, his kidneys, his liver and his wonderful brain had all failed. The nursing staff acted swiftly giving him numerous blood transfusions and putting him into an induced coma and then onto life support in A&E, before whisking him up to intensive care at the top of the hospital by way of the goods lift, because none of the main lifts were working. The young female doctor told my four children that she could not guarantee that he would survive saying ” He is the sickest man in the hospital tonight.”

Once in intensive care on the 11th floor, as close to heaven as the hospital gets, the care Richard received was outstanding. The nurses were not only kind and compassionate but their skill levels and attention to detail was incredible. They spent every second of the day making minute detailed observations via a computer and tweaking intravenous infusions by way of numerous leads into Richard’s blood. Their armoury to fight the condition was technology. Richard had a huge oxygen mask on his face, the machines were breathing for him, pumping his blood for him, cleaning his blood for him. For seven long days I sat anxiously holding his hand just hoping beyond hope that he would pull through. Then it was decided that it might be possible to allow him to come round, the moment that he squeezed my hand was one of the happiest days of my life.

All the front line staff looking after Richard were women. 

Of the 706,252 nurses registered in the UK around nine out of ten are women. They work for long hours and little pay, committed to caring, no wonder we all love our NHS. 

They are now about to fight one of the biggest battles our country has ever faced. 

I salute their bravery. They are risking their lives.

Already two wonderful nurses have died leaving behind young families: Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke. 

During the government’s daily coronavirus briefing,the Chief Nursing Officer for England Ruth May paid tribute to both women. 

She also revealed that she was concerned more nurses would die ” I worry that there’s going to be more and I want to honour them today and recognise their service.”

In a further call to people to stay at home, Ms May pleaded with them to remember the two women: “It is very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays but please I ask you to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them.”

Cherly Davies, another inspirational nurse speaking from Wales on Channel 4 News explained that “Yes” her  family were concerned but “I came into the NHS to care for patients and that is my first and foremost role and that is what I will be doing” 

Last year I was invited to give a TED X talk about 50:50 Parliament in Brighton. At  the end of the day I was packing up all the 50:50 bits and pieces when a man walked up to me wanting to debate our aspiration for a gender balanced Parliament. I engaged politely but it became clear we were not going to agree that women should have equal seats and equal say in running the country and planning the future. He stormed off shouting “It is men that fight the wars!” as if that was a reason. 

Well this is one war that women will also be fighting by giving the very best care they can. All their training and commitment will be needed and let’s hope it will be a war that, together, we all win!

Representation shapes policy. Women’s work and experience counts as much as men’s. Caring experience is as relevant as commercial experience.

Right now it is knowledge of health care that is vitally important. Why was this not high on the political agenda in January when we were all witnessing the health crisis in China?

Few of our representatives have any direct experience of caring within the NHS or community. Maybe this is why there is such a disconnect about the resources that are required to deliver the health service that we now all so desperately need. 

50:50 Parliament have been speaking at NHS conferences to women in the health service. 50:50 was promoting our #AskHerToStand and #SignUpToStand campaigns.  We hope that some of these talented women respond to our call for them to stand. Their experience is needed not just in the corridors of the NHS but in the corridors of power! 

Having seen the ICU team in action I am fundraising for the COVID-19 Relief Fund to support staff on the front line. Please donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rhg

50:50 Parliament encourages and inspires women to stand for elected office with our #AskHerToStand and #SignUpToStand campaigns. We work with all the political parties to empower women into politics. Via our #NewGirlsNetwork we allocate buddies, women supporting women along the path to Parliament, so that we have more women at Westminster after the next election.