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18th Jan 2021

Doctor receives 20-30 abusive messages per day from Covid-19 deniers in UK

Covid-19 deniers are making life hell for NHS workers.

You work hard, don’t you? You earn every penny of your paycheque and feel proud of doing so. And so you should. Now imagine having to work twice as many hours as you already do in order to prevent people from dying to the point that it drives you to tears every night. And then imagine being greeted at work by hordes of people telling you the reason you’re having to work so hard is a hoax.

That is unfortunately the lives many NHS workers and other healthcare staff have had to endure throughout this pandemic. But the abusive conspiracy theorists are not confined to the hospital doors. That abuse follows our nurses and doctors home, as they are bombarded on social media with vitriolic messages.

Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden is an intensive care registrar and Doctors’ Association UK President. She told the BBC that NHS staff are facing “devastating” abuse online and at protests.

Batt-Rawden says she receives between 20 and 30 abusive messages every day from Covid-19 deniers, one of whom told her: “I couldn’t care less who I apparently murder by not wearing a mask.”

“I’ve been a doctor for about ten years in the NHS,” she said. “We have actually had quite a lot of abuse, particularly on social media.”

“It’s mainly around that Covid is somehow a hoax, on a conspiracy. So people just not believing NHS staff who are trying to speak up about how bad things are on the front line at the moment.

“I’ve had somewhere between 20 – 30 abusive messages a day. And that’s been everything from swearing and calling me names to saying: ‘Well I don’t care who’s dying, you can’t tell me what to do.’

“That’s really hard when you’re giving your all to try to save patients on the front line, when things are so difficult, when you are working all the hours God sends and there are some people who don’t support you.

“I cannot tell you how much this has devastated morale.”

She recalls a junior doctor, working in A&E, who told her: “I really don’t want to go in,” because there was a “horde of people telling me Covid was a hoax, shouting at me and I was half broken.”

To combat the abusive messages, Batt-Rawden set up a campaign on Twitter, asking people to post blue heart emojis in a show of support for NHS staff.

“I never thought in a million years it would catch on,” she says. “But it did.”

#NHSBlueHeart became the top trend in the UK, and A-list celebrities began adding blue hearts to their usernames.

“Most people are firmly in our corner and have wanted to show that,” she says.

“NHS staff really needed that tidal wave of support.”