"The public policy response to this illness has caused more harm than the illness itself"

·3-min read
Planet Normal
Planet Normal

Dr Charles Levinson left the NHS in 1989 to found Doctor Call, the first private visiting service in London offering home visits. During the pandemic, he's noticed a chilling effect on the patients his service service - and it's not simply the virus.

"We're seeing people sometimes who have not seen a doctor when they should have done, and have much more advanced illness than we're used to seeing".

Speaking to Telegraph columnists Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan on this week's Planet Normal podcast, which you can listen to using the audio player above, Dr Levinson says he feels the need to highlight what he calls "collateral damage" of the public policy on coronavirus.

"There have been 51,000 excess non-covid deaths in the home, and I think partly that's because people have been asked to have a sort of wartime spirit where they just get on and manage. This means things haven't been picked up early. People have ignored symptoms that they would normally go and get help for or go and enquire about."

"I think the most frightening thing about it is that we're in the foothills of the non-covid health crisis because an awful lot of the things that come out of this are things that have a long lead-in time. And so people with diabetes that isn't picked up damage their kidneys and arteries and hearts. But that takes a long time to become apparent, years even. Similarly with psychological problems, which is one of the huge areas which I think we're just beginning to see the damage from. During a crisis, people often hold it together and it isn't until sometime afterwards all the damage becomes apparent."

Asked whether he blames those making decisions for how they've handled the pandemic, Dr Levinson says "Clearly, it's not an easy ship to steer. And so they had to rely on predictions, and it just so happens that they over-relied on certain predictions, which have been very extreme. That then means, of course, that there's a requirement to try to get the public to change their behaviour. And so behavioural psychologists and scientists advise on what sort of level of scare tactics are necessary to try to get people to do what they want. And I think they've overdone it. People have become frightened to seek the medical attention they should."

"The public are very much affected by public information. And we see this with, for instance, with our flu vaccination campaign." Doctor Call is the largest provider of flu vaccinations outside the NHS.

"Flu tends to follow a cycle of about four or five years where the levels fall. And when the scientists anticipate a big year, because we've had a few quiet years, there's a big public information campaign with celebrities being shown having vaccinations and so on, to encourage the public to have them. And suddenly we're inundated in the private sector as well [as the NHS]. So the public are very much led by these public information campaigns and I just think they have to be used with great care."

"Very often with an illness, the body's response to the illness causes more harm than the illness itself. And I think in this case, the public policy response to this illness has caused more harm than the illness itself."

Listen to Planet Normal, a weekly Telegraph podcast featuring news and views from beyond the bubble, using the audio player above or subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your preferred podcast app.

Join Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan to discuss the latest Planet Normal episode in the comments section of this article at 11am on Thursday 5 August.

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