Somalia? Send a proper journalist

Picture of men with guns in SomaliaLIZ JONES: The caring professions? They just don’t seem to care at all | Mail Online

The above article is a rant by Liz Jones, normally a fashion columnist on the Daily Mail also well-known for covering in nauseous detail her relationship with Nirpal Dhaliwal, about how she tried to get immunisations at the last minute before going off to Somalia to “cover” the famine there. For that, she needed a huge number of vaccines: “hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and so on”. Her private GP in Sloane Street, London, did the yellow fever jab straight away but for some reason could not do the others then or at all (the article does not make it clear), so she expected to just turn up at a NHS GP’s practice at a moment’s notice and get all her other jabs. Not surprisingly, she couldn’t. (More: Nicky Clark, Brian Kellett.)

She describes her exchange (not sure how truthfully) thus:

‘You are not registered?!’ the woman said, clearly appalled I had made her pick up the phone. ‘We can’t see you then. And we can’t fill out a prescription that hasn’t been written up by us.’

‘But I will pay for the jabs, it only takes a couple of minutes.’

‘But the nurse is fully booked. She can’t do it. I don’t even know if we have the drugs.’

‘Can you find out?’

‘Well, no. I’d have to ask her. And she can’t fit you in.’

‘But this is an emergency. I have never bothered you before in the three years I have lived here. Not with a snotty-nosed kid, not with depression, nothing. Never!’

‘But we don’t have your notes.’

‘You don’t need my notes. Lots of people go to walk-in centres. You could telephone my doctor if you’re worried about anything.’

‘I don’t have time to do that. Why don’t you go to A&E if it’s an emergency?’

‘I’m sure they wouldn’t classify a routine jab as an emergency. I mean, it’s a global crisis. Millions of people are dying and you won’t put yourself out to allow me to be seen by a nurse, not even a doctor, for five minutes?’


The sense of entitlement here is extraordinary. Most people who use NHS GPs know that you have to wait for an appointment, particularly for something which is not an emergency (and if it really is an emergency, as the receptionist told her, you need to go to Accident and Emergency). If you want a particular doctor, and he or she is popular, you might have to wait even longer (as I did recently). Everyone knows that waiting is a fact of life when seeking non-emergency NHS care. As was pointed out in the comments, the doctors are busy seeing sick people and visiting the housebound, and vaccinations for a holiday or other non-essential trip are among the things that have to wait. And you do have to register, because they need to know what pre-existing conditions you have that might counterindicate (that means: make it a bad idea) one or more of the vaccines she was demanding. A GP is a local doctor, who is meant to know his patients, not deal with them off the street.

She tries to justify her demand to be seen now by bad-mouthing the clinic’s real patients, like the mothers concerned for their “snotty” kids’ health. GPs are the first port of call for any health-related referral, which is why I had to go to mine to get referred for a possible Asperger’s diagnosis, and this is why all those with depression go there even if they are not catastrophically, life-threateningly ill. Worse still, she then compares the frustration that led to this little trantrum to the very real abuse that went on at Winterbourne View and other “hospitals” for those with severe learning disabilities. Those institutions are run by private contractors, not the NHS itself, and those involved were mostly not nurses but low-paid nobodies picked up off the street. People like them were working at the boarding school I was at in the early 1990s, so not much has changed over the years. No doubt they, and the company who hired them, were contracted because they were cheap, and the NHS needs to spend money on making sure such places are fit for vulnerable people to live, but no doubt most people would agree that this is a more worthy priority than making sure that well-connected wealthy people like Liz Jones can get travel jabs at a moment’s notice lest they shout about it in the media the next day.

On top of this, the Hepatitis B vaccine is given in three parts, and it would not be effective if you only have the first part and then go somewhere that it is prevalent. People get mildly ill after having the injections (I know this as it happened to my sister, who needed them as she is becoming a nurse), and so travel in that state might not be such a great idea. Whoever made the decision to send Liz Jones to Somalia clearly miscalculated, because no doubt many journalists are available who are experienced in covering rural or underdeveloped tropical locations and would be prepared for travel, and Jones was not one of them. Her normal style of journalism does not really lend itself to sensitive coverage of a humanitarian emergency in a war-torn country with a wholly different culture to ours, and the decision to send her was an irresponsible and ill-informed one.

(Picture sourced from here.)

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