Covid-19 Response

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 18th May 2020.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 3:37 pm, 18th May 2020

I will keep it concise, Mr Speaker—your instruction.

The hon. Gentleman is right to ask detailed questions about care homes, because making sure that we have that ring of protection around care homes is important. Of course, the majority of care homes have not had an outbreak at all. We should thank those running care homes for the incredible hard work and infection control they put in place, meaning that in 62% of all care homes there has not been an outbreak. Where there has been an outbreak, there has been rigorous infection control and a huge amount of work has gone into that. We have, as he said, now got testing for all. That started with testing throughout for people who had the first symptoms in a care home. Now, it is for all staff and all residents, whether symptomatic or not.

There was no large-scale removal of people from hospital into care homes towards the start of the crisis, as has been implied by some. In fact, the number of people moving from hospital into care homes has fallen throughout the crisis and those movements have been done with care. But I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the crisis has shown that there are many lessons for reform in the social care sector, not least the much closer integrated working with the NHS that we have seen in these crisis days.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the roll out of contact tracing. We now have the people in place. The app is successfully being piloted, and we are ready and preparing for rolling out that system.

The hon. Gentleman asked for the median time for a test to get back. The median time is, as far as I understand it, under 48 hours. He made a rather uncharacteristic dig at private sector businesses which are helping us to deliver that. None of the testing capability—not a single test—would be possible without the private sector. His attempt to divide people between private and public sector is entirely wrong. I think he should remember that that bit of the Labour party left the shadow Cabinet a couple of months ago. I thought good sense had returned.

The hon. Gentleman asked about local public health services. It is incredibly important that local public health services are involved. We have brought in Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council and a brilliant public servant, to lead the work on engagement with local public health services, which the hon. Gentleman rightly—I totally agree with him—says are an incredibly important part of getting this right.

We of course keep R under review. We keep watching it and we keep surveying to find out what it is. We have said that, if it rises above one and we see an outbreak in an area, we will be perfectly prepared to take action in that area. Indeed, if it goes dangerously high nationally, we would be prepared, as we were before, to take the necessary action.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman talked about the importance of mental health services across the board. The support is there in the NHS for all NHS staff—in fact, it is there across the board. One of the interesting things in this crisis is that paediatric mental health services have discovered that many services are better received, especially by children, via computer than face to face. In some cases, therefore, the service is better provided at a distance, over a screen, than face to face, but he is absolutely right to highlight the importance of mental health services in this crisis and beyond.