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I start by paying tribute to all the health and social care workers, right across my constituency. They have my deeply felt thanks and gratitude.
I will concentrate on my role as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on vascular and venous disease, because I am deeply concerned by the impact covid-19 has had on people who suffer from vascular disease. I have spoken about vascular disease before. It is a killer disease that few seem to know about, despite the devastation it causes to so many lives. Between 15% and 20% of British people over 70 are affected by peripheral artery disease, which can cause painful chronic leg ulcers and is the main cause of amputations in England. As I have said previously, every hour in England someone has part of their foot removed; every two hours in England someone loses their leg.
As chair of the APPG, I have heard evidence from NHS frontline workers and patient representatives deeply concerned by the burden borne by people with vascular disease because vascular services have experienced reductions in their capacity to deliver care during the crisis. Some people with vascular disease are too frightened to seek treatment. As Mr Naseer Ahmad, the Manchester amputation reduction strategy director, says, “One of the biggest problems we face is fear.” I believe the lack of a comprehensive and universal covid testing regime, combined with stories of patients who enter hospital covid-free only to contract the disease while in hospital, is driving that fear. That has inevitably led to people who otherwise would take themselves to hospital staying at home while their condition worsens. To make matters worse, clinicians have expressed fears that many people who have had their non-urgent operations cancelled may have deteriorated since that decision was made.