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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 4:04 pm, 24th June 2020

I know that the hon. Gentleman is always keen to support those on his Front Bench. Indeed, he was one of the few Tory Members who actually supported Mr Cummings, tweeting:

“Another media non-story when there are so many important ‘real’
stories of this crisis”.

The Government were slow in getting PPE to the frontline, slow in ramping up testing, slow in going into lockdown, slow in getting tracing going and slow in protecting care homes. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman recognises my constructive tone, but it does not mean that I will not highlight the failing of this Government in their mishandling of many aspects of the pandemic.

I must now move on, having spent some time in this mutual love-in with the former Health Secretary. I do not want to damage his career any further, although he is probably not on the Prime Minister’s Christmas card list at the moment.

I hope that the Government will engage seriously with our suggestion of regular testing for all NHS staff, because we believe that is a crucial part of an effective test, trace and isolate strategy. The problem is that the testing and tracing is still not as effective as it should be. Of course, we recall that testing and tracing was abandoned on 12 March, and the Government have been playing catch-up ever since. At Health questions yesterday the Secretary of State could not even tell us how many people were being tested on a daily basis. I hope that the Minister will now get us that information.

Local authorities are still not receiving localised data, which is very serious. At Thursday’s press conference—the Prime Minister has now got rid of the press conferences—the Health Secretary casually announced, in response to a question, that Leicester is experiencing one of the highest spikes in the country. Nearly a week later, the local authority still does not have specific postcode data on where the people who have tested positive are. The Secretary of State announced that last Thursday, and today is Wednesday. We do not have that data because the data protection protocols have still not been agreed. This is shambolic. The Government cannot announce that there is an outbreak in a particular part of the country but then not provide the local authority with the data it needs to put in place the necessary measures.