Opinion with Christine Tongue: The Zoom Boom and the cowardly chick

Zoom boom

What were your highlights this scary summer? My garden has produced endless interest, rescuing broccoli from caterpillars, picking vast quantities of squidgy plums and tiny tomatoes. And watching the reluctant seagull chick on the house opposite try to learn to fly.

I spent days watching his parents nagging him from my fence as he refused to leave the nest roof and then finally made it over to my roof, and stayed there long enough for me to worry he was too cowardly to survive. Then he tried to mug a visiting child for his sandwich and I lost all sympathy. I wasn’t even very upset when I found a pile of feathers where the fox had slaughtered something overnight….


But all through this fascinating summer has been my awful fear that I or one of my extremely vulnerable disabled friends might get the virus. And also the anger that we are still in danger after seven months of government mismanagement and – let’s be honest – prioritising business over health.

Zoom has made it possible to hold meetings and see speakers from all over the world and examine in detail how tidy their living rooms are and whether they can control their dogs and children while they tell us something vital.

The decisions about Thanet health care are made by a body called the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), originally a local set-up, but changed in recent times to cover all of Kent, with Thanet only having one or two representatives instead of a group of our GPs and clinicians.

Instead of meeting locally, often in Margate on the bus route, the meetings started to be held all over the county. I could get to the local ones with other people from Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK), but Maidstone is just unreachable.

Now, though, the Zoom boom has suddenly made them accessible! You have to do a lot of work to find out when they are and get the right link but the meetings are supposed to be in public and we public can submit questions. So you can ask, for example, about the huge queues outside some of our local surgeries or why we can’t recruit doctors in Thanet.

I asked about local testing and why (at that time, July) we were supposed to go miles out of town to Manston instead of to our local GP or pharmacy or QEQM. I got some very interesting answers – such as, you could do a home test if you couldn’t drive to Manston. Fortunately I’d had personal experience of home testing, so I could testify as to how hard it is getting a chemistry set in the post and trying to do things properly.

It emerged that it’s not really the CCG’s bag to do testing. It’s a government thing and they all, to me, looked a bit shifty, when they had to say that. As it turned out, it looks like the whole testing and tracing effort has been thoroughly messed up and miscalculated. Why can’t we get a test where we live? And get a result quickly?

Why do I and my vulnerable fellow disabled have to go on protecting ourselves and mistrusting our visitors and people we pass in the street because we don’t know who has the virus and who is safe?

That small child who lost his sandwich to the seagull in my garden walks around with his hands behind his back in case he forgets and hugs someone. I haven’t hugged him for seven months and he now has covid in his school. So it’ll be zoom hugs for us now.

I just get the idea that we are being lied to, that the government pretend they have a plan but really they just haven’t. The highlight of my summer would have been if somebody in power had come on telly, maybe via Zoom, and admitted it. Well, I can dream, can’t it? When you’re on lockdown it’s one of the few things you can do.

For SONIK zoom meetings and campaigns check out https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurNHSKent


  1. I hope that everyone will remember that the failing organisations in which so much faith and money of taxpapers has been placed are private and their main desire is to make profis, and that the government has very largely refused to use the scientific talents in our universities – and in the NHS itself

  2. Christine as you are a member of “SONIK” it would befit you to tell Thanet the truth about CCG planning and SONIK failed judicial review of the CCGs stroke unit decision.

    The truth is that the CCG process was rendered unlawful by breach of statutory duties by TDC.

    The duties to report Thanet Environmental Toxic Hazards to Health.

    SONIK and Cllr Constantine concealed the breaches of statutory duty and the toxic hazards from the High Court, contrary to Civil Procedure Rules.

    Leigh Day (SONIK solicitors) also concealed the breaches of statutory duty and the toxic hazards from two QEQM maternity tragedy inquests contrary to common law.

    If you and SONIK and Cllr Constantine would kindly pipe down, give others the opportunity to bring toxic hazards and breaches of statutory duty to issue. Then a Health Inequality cause can be advanced to Matt Hancock for extra NHS provision for Thanet.

    Now then please shhhh You have done immense harm to Thanet. Desist.

    • I have contacted the expert inquiry Maternity Tragedies. As a result they have scheduled research into two “Persistent Organic Pollutants” “POPs”subject of United Nations Stockholm Convention

      Polychlorinated biphenyls and “PFOA” (Toxic residue of firefighting foam)

      The expert inquiry will also look at whether blood serum testing would be informative.

      Last year I called in DEFRA Drinking Water Inspectorate to secure a ban on use of Manston aquifer as a public water source.

      Both POPs can cause foetal damage. PFOA can also cause foetal morbidity and pre eclampsia.

    • I apologise profusely for any harm I have done to anyone anywhere and any time! Just wish I could think of any examples …. by the way I am not responsible for the mass privatisation of the NHS, the abolition of our stroke unit, the testing chaos or the whole covid crisis. I dont think i am anyhow. And flattered as I am to be confused with any much loved local politician I am not responsible for Karen Constantine. I’m afraid confused is the main theme here!

  3. On 15th April 2019. SONIK stated –
    “Now that a demand has been made to see our accounts, we will of course make them public”

    No accounts have ever been published. No appeal against the decision to move the Stroke Service was made by SoNiK. Hardly the determined approach that was promised when tens of thousands were raised from the general public!

    Where is the financial transparency and probity?

    SONiK Financial Transparency – Save Our NHS in Kent

    • This anonymous comment most likely comes from Karen Constantine or her sidekick Gary Perkins. Cowardly to make these comments from behind a pseudonym.
      SONiK have answered both these matters, but the carping goes on.

      • Yet again, Carly Jeffrey, your lack of probity in self-appointed public campaigning is evident. Instead of declaring detailed accounts you choose as usual to continue to besmirch people in this community including an elected KCC Labour representative to conceal evidence that would perhaps restore public trust in the Sonik campaign. You are very good at paying yourself or others with publicly donated money and probably one of the few agents for the Labour Party with no experience of running a political election campaign who helped impoverish South Thanet Labour Party funds by accepting a fee. What were you paid for a losing campaign? You have also broken the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) whilst being a Labour Party Officer regarding my Labour Party membership. Why were you suspended from the Labour Party? Have you been reinstated? If so, why? Have you ever been a member of the Socialist Workers Party I ask as your modus operandi would suggest that to be the case, if not, I apologise?

  4. Sad to see that perhaps the most important point has been missed! Thank you Christine for highlighting the fact that anyone can attend the CCG meetings – and so much easier now as we can do this from home. Every time I attend online, I am so disheartened that members of the public are not attending. The only attendees seem to be from SONIK, and most of the questions from SONIK members. Why do so many people moan about the rapid loss of our NHS services, but don’t even ask questions of the CCG? What are you concerns – PLEASE email your questions! If you can’t attend, you’ll get a written answer. The next Primary Care Commissioning Committee is on 15 October (https://www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/news-and-events/events/event-details?occurrenceID=365) and the next Governing Body meeting is on 29 October (https://www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/news-and-events/events/event-details?occurrenceID=365). All agendas and minutes are available online.

  5. Thank you Pauline it always helps to communicate clearly and concisely what you want to say and not bury it.
    The links you have given Pauline deserve a story in their own right.
    Perhaps Kathy Bailes may consider this as part of a neutral pro-active information and community engagement story.
    Pipe-Up People!

  6. Thank you Clare, I have asked Kathy. Also, we have one person who represents the residents of Thanet to the CCG – Clive Hart ([email protected]) is the Associate Lay Member – Patient & Public Engagement for the NHS Kent & Medway Clinical Commissioning Group. As you may know, until recently there was a Clinical Commissioning Group for Thanet, but now all EIGHT CCGs are amalgamated into the Kent and Medway CCG. So it seems that Clive just feeds his information to the one lay member for Public and Patient Engagement on the CCG for the whole of Kent!

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