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It seems like a very long time ago, but I remember making a visit to Ipswich Hospital in February, before the lockdown, when it was still unclear how widespread covid-19 would become. During the visit, I inspected a number of isolation pods that had been constructed in anticipation of a virus. The set-up was a real tribute to the forward thinking and expertise of our NHS staff.
Since then, the efforts of all staff at Ipswich Hospital have been nothing short of exceptional. They have taken on considerable extra risk to take care of the rest of us, and I would like to use this opportunity, on behalf of our town, to thank them and those who work in our social care sector for all the work they have done over the last few months. Of course it is important that we ensure that they have access to as much testing as possible so that they can do their job confidently and so that valuable NHS staff are not self-isolating as a precaution when they may not have covid.
Mental health is mentioned in the motion. We really need to consider the impact of covid-19 on the wider mental health of our country. The mental health aspects of covid will be with us for a lot longer than the virus itself, and it is important that we do everything we can to confront this issue head-on across society in the coming months and years.
Throughout this crisis, I have been in close contact with Suffolk Mind about the important work that it has been doing to support those whose mental health has been impacted by covid-19. To put it starkly, four out of five people in Suffolk feel disconnected from the wider community, and similarly high numbers of people feel that their needs for community interaction are no longer being met. I therefore urge the Minister to take into careful consideration people’s mental health, and the ways in which it has been impacted by covid-19, over the coming years.
Let me also touch on the issue of waiting lists, the extra pressure that covid-19 places on our NHS, and the knock-on impact that has on the treatment of illnesses such as cancer, which has been mentioned, and on the provision of knee and hip replacements. There is a significant challenge in hospitals up and down our country to get on top of waiting lists to ensure that people do not have to wait months—that they do not have to experience delays or cancellations—for hip and knee replacements.
However, when looking to confront that nationally, we should still look to do everything we can to keep orthopaedic services as local to patients as possible. I draw attention to the situation at the hospital in my constituency. Yesterday, I signed a cross-party letter with the leader of Ipswich Borough Council to say that, as the local and national representatives of Ipswich, we do not believe that the plan to open an orthopaedic centre in Colchester is in the interests of the people we represent.
I urge the Minister to take that into consideration, to meet me to discuss my concerns and those of my constituents, and to discuss a way forward that addresses delays and cancellations to hip and knee replacements but in a way that keeps care as close to people as possible.