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Dear Colleague,

As we approach the holiday weekend and the imminent review of the Government’s social restrictions in order to combat the Covid-19 epidemic, I thought it timely and appropriate to give some words of encouragement to the Branches of the RAMC Association. I had pointed out previously that we manage our membership through our Branches and that local decisions would have to be made in relation to Branches conducting their business. Rightly you have not been meeting and collecting together socially as per Government direction but equally our local networks will, I am sure, have been connecting with our infirmed and aged Members. Indeed, the age profile of our membership veers towards the more vulnerable group in the population by definition.

It is quite apparent that we will be in a situation of lock-down for some weeks to come, especially those in the over 70s bracket. So we must continue to show the necessary fortitude in obeying the distancing rules that currently apply. It is difficult for many, and especially those with children and/or who work in key jobs, to follow the strictures. Yet we must for the benefit of all concerned and to reduce the load on the NHS. It will be a grand moment when things ease up, but we must wait awhile yet.

We are medical people and we understand the need for all the procedures and limitations so we can clearly see and admire the fantastic work that our colleagues in the NHS are undertaking in confronting, on the front line, the consequences of the epidemic. Within that we can also see the contribution our currently serving RAMC colleagues are making either within their normal place of work in the NHS, caring for those troops assisting with supply and distribution or in the new Nightingale facilities coming on stream. But we need also to commend the efforts of food shop staff, binmen, transport workers, carers, environmental health, etc, etc for all their vital efforts in keeping us all alive, supplied and safe.

So I urge you to keep your focus on obeying the rules but keeping a weather eye on our vulnerable locally. I am amazed by the voluntary organisations and volunteers rallying to the cause whether it be for the NHS or simply helping the locality with shopping runs and so on. Our Branches are not alone in helping others and can link in with other volunteers to ensure coverage. Even a phone call, text message, letter or email will help bridge the isolation gap and assist in sustaining the managing of the separation still required.

I see the loons are gathering some pace on the fake news front through social media. Ignore this noise and stick to the Government’s advice and direction. This is based on the best evidence available and may well change as that evidence accrues and unfolds. It pains me to say this but be circumspect over the siren voices of the media currently soundly out about the way ahead. They seem to be spending more time trying to reduce the credibility of Government in handling its most serious challenge in decades. Instead of being part of the proper exercise of holding the Government to account, they seem hell-bent on unconstructive criticism, finding fault, nit-picking, shroud waving, creating division and demeaning the efforts of those in charge. They certainly are abusing data and statistics daily. Whether this is because they are simply innumerate or whether it is merely wilful, I am not sure, or perhaps, it is a combination of the two.

This is a massive emergency enterprise, unprecedented in most of our lifetimes, involving novel demands and requiring rapid adaptation of a peacetime structure facing one way into something confronting a serious and novel enemy from another direction. It involves a large number of inter-faceted working parts and many different levels through thousands of places, hundreds of thousands of people and countless items of equipment and supplies. There will be errors and cockups, the big issue is whether they are systemic/systems-based or merely local friction which is the very reality of human interactions over the millennia. My money is on the latter. The trick is to fix the rogue instrument in the orchestra not shoot the conductor. I have no intention of having my morale rotted by sundry journalists. If you are interested why my judgement is swayed in this direction, and so strongly, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me directly.

I will finish now and ask you to share this message with the Branches under your regional wings. I would also ask for feedback as to whether messages such as this are found to be of any value? When I wrote to all Branch Chairmen last year after I had taken up this appointment, I invited feedback. This has only happened from about a third of the Branches. So please let me know if I am helping or not? There is enough noise around the place as it is that might distract from the focus on the main effort and message.

Wash those hands, keep your distance and work from home if you can.

Alistair McMillan
Chairman RAMC Association

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