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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 4:31 pm, 24th June 2020

I beg to move amendment (a), to leave out from “medicine” to the end and add:

“and recognises the unprecedented action the Government has taken in its tireless efforts against Coronavirus to protect the NHS and save lives.”

The coronavirus pandemic is the most serious public health emergency that our nation has faced for a generation and our NHS and social care system has been well and truly on the frontline. Today, I would like to outline the work we have done to protect our NHS and social care from the threat of this invisible killer, as well as our work to safely ramp up services now that this virus is in retreat.

On protecting the NHS and social care, we have worked hard to boost the resilience of our health and care system, so it would not be overwhelmed, as we have sadly seen elsewhere across the world. A major part of this mission was our Nightingale hospitals. This was one of the most ambitious projects this country has ever seen in peacetime, building hospitals in just a matter of weeks in exhibition centres and conference venues. That hard work from so many meant that, even at the peak of the pandemic, there was more critical care capacity than there was when coronavirus first hit our shores, so our NHS was able to give outstanding critical care to everyone who needed it.

Our social care system has also been at the heart of the pandemic, and we have worked hard to give it the support it needs. In March, we announced £1.6 billion of funding for local government and £1.3 billion of funding via the NHS. In April, we announced a further £1.6 billion, as well as our comprehensive adult social care action plan. In May, we announced a £600 million infection control fund for care providers in England, which includes funding so that social care staff can be on full pay if they have to isolate due to covid. That work is bearing fruit, thanks to the dedication, expertise and compassion of care workers throughout the country.

Fifty-eight per cent. of care homes have had no reported cases of coronavirus. Every life lost in our care homes fills me with sorrow, whether it is from coronavirus or not. However, we are seeing a sustained reduction in the number of coronavirus deaths. This week’s Office for National Statistics figures for England and Wales show that the number of deaths in care homes has fallen once again—down from 536 to 360 in the last week.

This has been hard, but through this crisis we have strengthened our health and care system, and we are looking to see what lessons we can take forward as we look ahead to the winter.