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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:46 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business and Industry) 4:46 pm, 24th June 2020

I record my thanks on behalf of the Scottish National party group of MPs for the work that NHS staff and care staff have done throughout these islands during the course of the pandemic to date. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that theirs has been a superhuman effort, for which some have given everything they could, including, sadly, their lives. We remember the 312 staff UK-wide who have lost their lives in the service of others, including the seven healthcare workers and the 12 social care workers in Scotland. There are no words of mine, or, I suspect, anyone else that can thank them enough for their work. We should not underestimate the toll it has taken and will continue to take in the months ahead.

Throughout this time, we have clearly seen the value of public service and our public services. The weekly clap for carers showed people’s genuine gratitude and thanks to those who work to care for us and restore us to health. However, clapping is not enough. As we move towards what we generally term the new normal, I think the public would expect that new normal to be much better than the old normal that we came to take for granted.

My party is committed to the principle of fair working and does everything it can to ensure the safety and welfare of Scotland’s health and social care workforce. Work is taking place to provide a range of staff wellbeing services and to share that with people working in the health and social care sector. I will give some brief examples. On 11 May, the Scottish Government launched the national wellbeing hub, PRoMIS, which was created in partnership with key agencies, professional bodies and trade unions and will support all health and social care staff in Scotland.

My party has long advocated a real living wage, and since 2011 the Scottish Government have paid the real living wage to all their staff, including NHS workers, and that has recently been extended to all adult social care workers. Scotland was the first country in the UK to announce a death-in-service provision for NHS staff for covid-19-related deaths, including for frontline permanent and fixed-term staff, NHS locums, GP locums and NHS bank staff who are not included in the coverage provided by the pension scheme. Last month, the Health Secretary in Scotland also announced a scheme for care workers in respect of sick pay and death-in-service benefits, whereby a one-off lump sum of £60,000 will be payable to a named survivor, and that will be retrospective.

We are seeing infection rates reduce because of the way that people have heeded the strong message to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. That message has, at times, seemed to be under threat—not least when the Prime Minister, given a choice between protecting his chief adviser and the integrity of the public health messaging, inexplicably came down on the side of his chief adviser. I see Douglas Ross in his place. I am certain that he will have quite a bit to say later with which I will struggle to agree, but I want to record my respect for him saying publicly what many of his colleagues must have been saying in private, which he left the Government in order to do.