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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Sara Britcliffe Sara Britcliffe Conservative, Hyndburn 6:32 pm, 24th June 2020

We should all be grateful for the dedication that we have seen throughout the pandemic. I do not believe that anybody in this House disagrees with that.

In Hyndburn and Haslingden, frontline staff in the NHS, social care and other key industries, such as food production, manufacturing and transport, went above and beyond to protect my community. The Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust also went above and beyond, particularly when it saw an increase in those requiring mental health support. It quickly and efficiently launched a mental health urgent response line for anyone of any age in need of professional 24-hour support. It has made great use of video and digital technology to provide services, including appointments, online through the Attend Anywhere initiative. It has also expanded the health and wellbeing support line for those who want to chat or who want emotional support.

In March, I welcomed the UK Government’s announcement of a £5 million grant to fund additional services for people struggling with their mental wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak. On 22 May, the Government announced that a further £4.2 million would be awarded to mental health charities such as Samaritans, YoungMinds and Bipolar UK to continue to support people experiencing mental health challenges throughout the outbreak. Lancashire’s response to the virus has been nationally recognised as exemplary, and I am very proud to be Lancashire born and bred.

NHS testing has ended the uncertainty about whether essential staff needed to stay at home, and I fully support the Government step to empower that. The East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has tested more than 7,000 staff, with around 13% showing that they have antibodies to covid. This data is important and provides clear evidence of the effectiveness of PPE and the social distancing measures put in place.

In Hyndburn, as of 23 June there have been 159 confirmed cases, the second lowest number in Lancashire, and Rossendale was the third lowest with 178. This is a testament to the sacrifice of people staying at home, avoiding all unnecessary contact. The test and trace service has already helped to gather more information about the spread of the virus, and I congratulate those members of the public who have been contacted and have followed the guidance to self-isolate. That is how we stop the transmission of the virus. Alongside industry professionals and committed staff, the test and trace system contacted 87,000 people in its first week, and I know that the Government are continuing to explore all options and utilising technology to improve our understanding of this virus.

My hon. Friend Dr Mullan was absolutely right that this motion’s proposal could put strain on our NHS, and I would like also to hear the evidence from Opposition Members that it is the most effective approach.

Many key services have sought to continue throughout this time, albeit in a reduced or socially distant capacity, and I congratulate the hard-working staff delivering all types of care throughout the NHS. I am truly proud of our NHS and social care workers; the sacrifices they have made to protect the vulnerable during this time are extraordinary, and I want to thank those men and women who are still working tirelessly to protect this country, and particularly those in Hyndburn and Haslingden.