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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon 6:12 pm, 24th June 2020

I had always known that I was very lucky to be the MP for North Devon and, in their response to the pandemic, I have nothing but humble words to say for the people of North Devon and the surrounding areas. We have been spared a large amount of the pandemic, fortunately—with regards to the actual virus—but our response was still there. That is not to take away from anyone who has lost loved ones during this time; my thoughts and prayers are with them all.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the health staff in North Devon and the exemplary leadership that has been shown, particularly by our director of public health, Dr Virginia Pearson, the clinical commissioning group, our NHS trust and the incredible team at the North Devon District Hospital, which is the smallest mainland hospital—small but perfectly formed—who, during this pandemic, looked after one patient with the virus for a full 75 days in intensive care before enabling them to go back home again. I thank all the teams there. We have learnt that when we work together, we can really do things well, and letting people focus on what they are good at has enabled some great outcomes in North Devon. I thank my care home staff, the social care staff, and particularly Natasha Koerner, who has led, motivated and looked after those teams throughout the pandemic.

In addition, the mental health of staff has been a concern throughout this, and I am very fortunate in my constituency to have a remarkable woman, Michaela Willis, who, in the first few weeks of the pandemic, phoned me to say that she used to run the National Bereavement Partnership and she was thinking that she would like to come out of retirement and reform it. I am very proud that that national initiative comes from this tiny village in North Devon and is there for all of us and staff right across the health service to phone in to and, I hope, to find some comfort, some way forward and help at this very difficult time.

While thinking about people who have taken extraordinary steps perhaps beyond their normal role, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Applegate and its chief executive Stuart Brocklehurst, who at the start of the pandemic recognised that PPE might be a concern. He has set up a non-commercial covid-19 hub, which is nationally shipping PPE behind the frontline, not straight into the NHS. He has helped those small new producers of PPE in the UK and is matching them with supply. Last week alone, his hub shipped 30 million items of PPE. I thank him for this step behind the fantastic efforts of our health team and Lord Deighton to ensure that our PPE response was great.

As we consider a second wave, which we hope we will not see, I am delighted that plans in North Devon are already well under way. As the MP, I have been briefed, our hospital is prepared and our Nightingale is still under construction but almost finished. I say a massive thank you to the team here and also to everyone in North Devon at this difficult time.