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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 am sure the hon. Gentleman was listening when I outlined the policy for the national health service. That is based on the chief medical officer’s advice. I think that is pretty clear. The Opposition’s position is not entirely clear, given that the hon. Gentleman started out saying “Weekly testing when necessary”, but said in his speech that it was weekly testing, whatever. On the other hand, we have been clear and the hon. Gentleman can look at the letter from NHS England and NHS Improvement to NHS trusts for further information.

I should move to the conclusion of my remarks—[Interruption.] Hold on, I thought we were not having any more political knockabout. We have established a national testing programme on a scale and at a pace that has never been seen before in this country. We will keep expanding that so that we can use high-quality testing to give confidence and certainty to anyone who needs it.

As I have set out today, there has been incredible action across our NHS and social care as we respond to this invisible killer. Thanks to the efforts of so many, crucial services have not been overwhelmed and all coronavirus patients who were admitted to hospital were able to receive urgent care. Because we have made such progress on slowing the spread of the virus, we have been able to ramp up other important services as part of our plan to get Britain back on her feet. However, we cannot be complacent and we must be ready for any increase in the rate of coronavirus infection and also for the winter, when, as hon. Members know, there is a greater risk of seasonal flu. As we keep ramping up services, we will ensure that we have the surge capacity to act quickly if necessary.

I want to finish by thanking the incredible NHS and social care staff who have been on the frontline of the pandemic. There has been a collective effort from so many, including healthcare professionals who have volunteered to return, and medical students, allied health- care profession students and nursing students who have stepped up at this important time for our country. The whole House and the whole nation are grateful to them for their heroic work.