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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:16 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 5:16 pm, 24th June 2020

At the beginning of the motion before the House, there is something with which we can all agree. As this is the first chance that I have had to speak, I put on record that the constituents of Wimbledon are served by three outstanding hospitals: St George’s, St Helier and Kingston. The heroic efforts of frontline staff, and indeed all NHS staff during this period, had been extraordinary. I also thank primary care and social care staff, who have helped many in my constituency.

I read the motion carefully and listened carefully to the shadow Secretary of State. In essence, the motion seems to be about three things: first, the backlog of operations and care that need to be provided; secondly, winter preparations; and, thirdly, testing. I agree with my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt, the former Secretary of State and now Chair of the Select Committee, that the decision to stop track and trace at the beginning and the advice to centralise testing were wrong.

It takes courage for anyone to admit that they were wrong and to put it right, and that is what the Health Secretary did. Although we are here to talk about the need for mass testing, we should acknowledge the amount of capacity that has been put in place. Having listened to my hon. Friend the Minister for Care, I ask her to make sure that the symptomatic and asymptomatic testing initially of health and care workers, and beyond, is in place. There is obviously more to do, but her confirmation that the chief medical officer has said that we should see that on at least a fortnightly basis, if not more regularly, is a good start. That should be welcomed across the House, because it is a huge step in the right direction.

I could talk a lot more about winter preparations, as for a little while I was in charge of trying to ensure that that happened and that it happens every year. The motion fails to recognise not only that preparations have to be made, but that, if we are to reduce the number of operations and care that people need and have not received due to covid, medium-term preparations also need to be made.

We should recognise that part of that is the building of new hospitals and the providing of new care. That should happen for local constituents across the country, but I want to talk particularly about south-west London. I find it extraordinary that part of my local political scene is the “save our hospital” campaign that comes out year after year. I have a Government I am proud to support putting £500 million of investment into a development scheme to increase the quantity and quality of care and improve access to great care, some of which would have helped during the covid crisis because there would have been a larger acute care hospital, yet my local Labour opponents are rejecting this. It seems extraordinary that we have a motion today that asks the Government to do exactly what they are doing, while at local level that preparation is being put in place for the medium term. Not only is Labour denying access to care now, but it is denying the quantity and quality of care we need for the future and increasing health inequalities by not supporting that investment.