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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:34 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Conservative, West Worcestershire 5:34 pm, 24th June 2020

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to put on record my thanks to everyone who works in the NHS and the social care sector in Worcestershire, as well as all those involved in gold command who have been able to bring together the work of the county councils and the district council, and all the critical workers who have kept the county going over the past three months. It is remarkable how well prepared they were and how able they were to cope with the peak without ever running anywhere near being overwhelmed in the system.

This debate allows me to put on record my condolences to the family of Julie Omar, a very well regarded nurse who lived in Malvern. In April she very sadly passed away at home with symptoms of covid-19. From the outpouring from the community and those with whom she worked at Redditch Hospital, it was clear that she was an absolutely remarkable woman. I did not know her personally, but clearly no words will ever be able to make up for the loss of such a remarkable individual. I hope that, by paying tribute to her work here in Parliament, it will help her family to come to terms with their loss.

This afternoon, I want to speak about innovation in three key areas: innovation in organisation; innovation in treatment; and innovation in testing. Clearly, there has been massive innovation in all three areas throughout this crisis.

First, on the organisational side, it has been amazing to see not only the new Nightingale hospitals being built, but so many GPs—I think almost all of them now—able to deliver tele-medicine. The innovation has allowed us to ramp up the ability to deal with such high volumes. There was also the appointment of Lord Deighton, who has been able to make such a remarkable difference through innovation in terms of the PPE supply chain. It is really exceptional how that has been dealt with. I would like to request that we put someone of that calibre in charge of planning how we ramp up and innovate organisationally to deal with the backlog of more routine treatments that are needed for so many of my constituents now.

Secondly, on innovation in treatment, I am very proud that it has been UK scientists who have discovered the important role that dexamethasone can play in treatment. It is such a cheap treatment and will, I think, be a help all around the world where the infection still runs rampant. May I also suggest an improvement in terms of treatment here? For those who have been asked through NHS 111 to stay at home with symptoms of covid-19, would it be possible to start to send oxygen saturation monitors to their home to ensure that they do not present at hospital far too late, when they are beyond treatment?

Finally, on innovation in testing, which is the subject of today’s debate, can we have an update from the Minister on testing, which has risen remarkably from five a day to 200,000 a day, but which needs to find other innovations in terms of speed and methods. The saliva testing pilot in Southampton, for example, would enable our airline industry to get going again.