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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:41 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 5:41 pm, 24th June 2020

We now know that coronavirus is not the great leveller. We know that it exacerbates social difference and the problems of health and social inequality. If someone is a black doctor, a black nurse, a black cleaner, a black paramedic or a black person in social care, they are more likely to contract and die of coronavirus than their white counterparts. We also know that if someone is a black man not in the health service, they are more likely to die from coronavirus. If someone is a black woman, they are more likely to die than their white counterparts. If they are taken to hospital, they are more likely to enter intensive care.

We know that it is not fair—it is not a balanced foundation. The Government have pledged to look into the issue with an inquiry, yet in nine days’ time, the NHS in my area intends to agree a plan that will move services away from black and ethnic minority areas to those that are whiter and more wealthy. When asked, “How can you do this without looking at coronavirus and its impact on the NHS?”, they said, “Okay, we’ll do the research, but we are not telling you about it.” Under pressure and embarrassment, they have produced their research: four pages, and not one word about the impact of coronavirus on black or ethnic minorities. There is no defence of their decision to take services away and no acknowledgement of the problem that exists. That is without even considering the fact that the black community in my constituency and around me in south-west London are more likely to have diabetes and hypertension, and black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth.

Do black lives matter? Perhaps we have to prove that they do. I ask the Minister directly: will she intervene to say that, yes, black lives matter, and that we need more than four pages that do not even give any acknowledgement of the problem that exists for black and ethnic minority people in our country and in my bit of south-west London?