Annual General Meeting (March)

Unfortunately this year’s League of Friends’ AGM had to be held ‘virtually’, like so many other meetings this year. Read the President’s Report below.

It seems that any author, journalist or officer of an association when writing a review of 2020 for his or her organisation begins by stating something along the lines of little did we know twelve months ago that we would be where we are today, and similarly how many times did we write in our Christmas cards last December, ‘We trust you are all OK and let’s hope for better things in 2021’?

Dr Roger Harrington

Well, this annual message from the League of Friends will doubtless follow the same pattern as one would have needed the most vivid of imaginations last February to anticipate what was going to happen globally in 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic. And 2021 hasn’t started brilliantly either with the NHS under extreme and unprecedented pressure and a mounting death toll in the UK from C-19 (as I write, the worst death toll in Europe, the fourth worst mortality rate per capita in the world behind Belgium, San Marino and Slovenia, and having just exceeded the 100,000 mark).

I spoke last year about the parlous state of the NHS, and in the context of the pandemic, it seems that the effects of ten years of austerity with staff shortages and bed closures have come home to roost. The lowest number of critical care beds per head of population in Europe has seen a frantic scramble in hospitals to set up extra ICU beds and establish dedicated Covid wards to the probable detriment of cancer patients and those waiting for less life-threatening procedures such as joint replacements, hernia repairs, etc.

The early successes of the UK vaccination programme offer hope of a way out of the pandemic but the current attitudes and beliefs of the Covid-deniers, the antivaxxers and those who wish an immediate lifting of the present lockdown measures – now in their 3rd iteration – are difficult to comprehend. While ‘wealth before health’ seems to have become the prevailing mantra for some, TV newsreel footage from some hospital ICUs has provided harrowing evidence of the strain on healthcare staff, patients and relatives.

It would be wrong to speak here of the PPE (personal protection equipment) supply problems, the lack of border controls, the difficulties with the test-track-trace system and the muddled messages, contradictions and U-turns from on high, but by common consent these have caused misunderstanding and confusion. However, to paraphrase Eric Morecambe, maybe all the right decisions have been made but not necessarily at the right time.

Turning to more parochial and less serious matters, Buckingham Hospital and its staff have continued to go about their work, the Hospital now approaching its 134th year of existence. Of necessity because of the lockdown, the League of Friends has not been able to be present on the wards as previously, particularly the League’s stalwart member, Ros Hutt, famed for trundling her trolley of cakes and goodies around the wards while dispensing general bonhomie. The crisis also resulted in the cancellation last December of the much-loved Christmas carol concert by the Lenborough Singers which usually launches us all into the festive season.

However, online meetings have come to the rescue, and who at the beginning of 2020 was aware of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, GoToMeeting etc., let alone the lexicon of the pandemic, for example furloughing, social distancing, flattening the curve or the R number? The League’s committee has met ‘virtually’ on five occasions and after postponing our AGM which was due to be held on 26 March 2020, a delayed ‘virtual’ event took place last September. It seemed reasonably successful to the extent that we intend to get back on schedule with the 2021 meeting due to be held on 18 March.

The Lace Hill development has been on hold for months because of the pandemic, but the League continues to keep a watchful eye for any significant developments. To reiterate the League’s position on this, we are aware of the probability of the Hospital becoming a so-called community hub like Marlow and Thame Community Hospitals, and acknowledging that the present Hospital might even close at some point, we wish to see the continuing provision of overnight beds in some form or other – Lace Hill possibly – but with the agreement of all the stakeholders, including the League, who are working together to ensure that the health and social care needs of all in the Buckingham community continue to be met in the future.

After the departure in December 2019 of ward sister Vanita Ragaven, we welcomed Amy Wright to the role last August and the League looks forward to working with her in the coming months and years. We are grateful to Heidi Baker from the physiotherapy department who attended committee meetings on behalf of the Hospital earlier in the year while Mrs Ana Hadley, the ward administrator, has provided a useful conduit between the Hospital and the League. She keeps in touch with us regularly with news and passes on requests for various items to support the staff and patients.

One piece of excellent news is that committee member Julian Lovelock has agreed to take on the position of the ‘permanent’ chair. We have been very grateful to Messrs Frank Donlon and Stephen Long who have alternated the role for our meetings but for various, sound reasons were never able to commit to permanency.

We shall be sorry to lose Mr John Wrigley who is finally retiring from the League’s committee after many years of service. He gallantly stepped into the role of treasurer after the retirement of Mr John Beasley – who, incidentally, we were delighted to see joining us from Bournemouth at our September virtual AGM – and the resignation of John’s short-lived successor before handing over last year to Mrs Jacqui North.

Grateful thanks are due as usual to the League’s officers, as above, secretary Mrs Sheila Dawe, the membership secretary Mrs Margaret Clark who together with her husband Brian completed the update and then continued to maintain the League’s database of members, and all the committee members for their tireless efforts during the year.

So, hands-face-space – and stay safe.

Dr Roger Harrington
President, Buckingham Community Hospital League of Friends