LSTM authors in The Conversation: "COVID-19 is unlikely to be eliminated – here’s how we’ll treat it in the future"

News article 6 May 2021

LSTM’s Dr Tom Wingfield and Professor Miriam Taegtmeyer have written a series of two articles for the online platform The Conversation, from their perspective as front-line hospital doctors caring for people admitted with COVID-19.

In the second article, published this week, the authors focus on the future of patient care given the probability that COVID-19 will not be eliminated. They focus on the improvements in treatment that have been developed during the pandemic in terms of drugs already available for those in serious condition in hospitals as well as those under development, which it is hoped will be able to keep patients out of hospital in the first place.

They describe the speed of the development, evaluation and roll out of effective vaccines as unparalleled – something that LSTM and Liverpool more broadly has contributed extensively to. However, they remind us that vaccine uptake varies widely and the fact that, given new variants, no vaccine is 100% effective and we may never achieve herd immunity.

Patient care needs to be at the centre of treatment for those who will continue to become ill with COVID-19 and the authors have previously published the results of a satisfaction survey of patients being treated for COVID-19 in Liverpool. Using the results as a learning resource for other clinical staff, and implementing what they had learned, they saw satisfaction levels increasing in the second/third waves including among people of Black Asian and Minority Ethnicity background. The feedback is remarkable given how busy the hospital was at those times.

As COVID numbers continue to decline the authors call for a health care system able to cope with returning to normal as well as planning for potential surges in people admitted with COVID-19 going forward. They emphasise that health system must be accessible and relevant to all populations social, economic, and/or racial factors. Finally, they call for a compassionate health system that is able to provide person centred care through health care workers that are well supported by the leaders and structures around them.

Their second contribution followed the first article, published last week, addressed the impact that January’s third wave of COVID-19 cases had on the healthcare workers providing care, not only in terms of those that have tragically lost their lives, but also the physical and mental toll. One issue they touch upon is the lack of protection from harm for the world’s healthcare workers during the pandemic, which has been described by some as “a mortal betrayal”.

The authors ask that, alongside the legal obligation wouldn’t it be refreshing if governments everywhere also saw keeping health workers safe at work as a moral obligation? They go on to point out that improvements to the lives of those providing care can deliver improvements in the outcomes of health system itself and the patients who use it.