Hospital chief raises concerns about government’s ‘Stay Alert’ message

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust Picture: ARCHAN

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Fears have been raised by the chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals that the government’s new “stay alert” message is not clear.

Nick Hulme, who leads the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), made the comments after the government changed its “stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” message to “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”.

The change in emphasis has come under a lot of scrutiny since it was unveiled by the prime minister on Sunday as part of his roadmap out of lockdown, in which he emphasised the need to keep supporting the NHS while also looking at the impact of the coronavirus on our economy.

Mr Hulme said that whilst it was important to understand the nuances of the government’s message, he remained concerned about how the new “stay alert” message could be interpreted by the wider public.

“The thing about ‘stay at home’ was that it was so clear,” said Mr Hulme.

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“You didn’t need to think about it.”

Mr Hulme said that the new message, focusing on the term “alert”, was markedly different.

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“The word ‘alert’ to one person will mean something different to me,” said Mr Hulme.

“In the absence of clarity, it leaves too much interpretation for people to make their own decisions.

“It’s really important that the public continue to get a really clear message about what is allowed.

“I think we need absolute clarity.

“If we move away from a simple message and we get more infections then the NHS won’t be supported.”

Mr Hulme said that so much good work had been done across the county to keep infection levels low that it would be a shame if things were to change now.

“I think the message is still stay at home,” said Mr Hulme.

Mr Hulme also raised concerns about seeing members of the public failing to stick to hand-washing guidance.

“People seem to have forgotten about hand-washing,” said Mr Hulme.

He said it was important that people continued to wash hands properly and regularly at this important stage of tackling the virus.

“We have got to stick with that for the forseeable future,” said Mr Hulme.

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