Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:23 pm on 24th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 6:23 pm, 24th June 2020

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Tom Hunt. I intend to make two brief points, both to the Minister specifically and more generally. First, I want to thank the NHS staff on the Island, thank Islanders for using the app and thank care home staff; and secondly, I want to reinforce some points about the fragility of health services in unavoidably small hospitals. I am aware that the Minister has heard that before from me, and I fear that she will hear it in the future too.

First, I thank NHS staff on the Isle of Wight for the remarkable work they have done, and I thank the leadership team under Maggie, Darren and Paul for the work they have done to reconfigure St Mary’s Hospital incredibly quickly. All the feedback that I have had from people who have been in the hospital has expressed a massive thanks to all the NHS staff on the Isle of Wight.

Secondly, I thank Islanders for using the sadly ill-fated app. About 75% of Islanders who could download it did so, which reinforces my efforts to develop a relationship with the Government in which we get to pilot schemes on the Island. We know that social scientists like isolated communities to pilot schemes on. For me, the best way to get the Isle of Wight to the front of the queue is to ensure that we pilot national schemes. We have had four in the last year. The app was the least successful, although we actually ran a pretty successful test. It cost £11 million —rather less than the £11 billion that new Labour spent on the IT system back in the early 2000s, but we will park that for the moment. We are testing drones flying into St Mary’s, which is excellent, and that drone test is going well. We are one of the hospitals testing dexamethasone, if I have said it correctly, which is potentially a fantastically good treatment for covid. We are also one of the health authorities piloting the use of telemedicine, which clearly is especially important as we have an isolated community separated from the mainland by water. I am grateful to Islanders, and I make no apologies for trying to get pilot schemes for the Island and I will continue to do so.

I also thank nursing home staff who have been extraordinarily diligent. I have spoken to many, including Belinda in Sandown, and Ian Bennett. I am grateful for their advice and the feedback that I got from many other people who work in care homes. I did visit one that had an outbreak of corona, and it was a pretty distressing situation. I am very much involved with many people who work in the care home environment.

I have a series of questions about care homes. The more we can test staff—fortnightly, if not weekly—the better. It would be good to know from the Government when the care badge scheme will be launched. The crisis in care homes has brought home the importance for us all of ensuring that our social care is fit for the 21st century. I know that is a much bigger issue which this Minister, and other Ministers, are dealing with.

My final point is on significant additional pressures to unavoidably small hospitals. There are 12 in England and Wales. The Minister knows the facts and figures, and she has been good enough to talk to me about this in the past. We put the additional extra costs of running an unavoidably small hospital on an island at about £12 million a year. The NHS long-term plan sets out a 10 year strategy and it says it is unable to find evidence of specific unavoidable costs, but I beg to differ. I think we have evidence of what those unavoidable costs are, both generally in terms of unavoidably small hospitals, but also specifically in the case of the Isle of Wight. In fact, we have specifically listed and itemised those additional expenditures when compared to a hospital that has a more average size population. As the Minister knows, St Mary’s is about half that of a normal district general hospital.