I am sure we will hear much more about the work of different parts of our NHS and the support being given in different ways to the extraordinary contribution that our health and social care workers are making.
There are clearly still huge challenges ahead for our country. We remain in the grip of one of the greatest challenges to our way of life in a lifetime. In recent weeks, more than 290,000 people have signed parliamentary petitions calling on the Government to reward those caring for us and our loved ones at this time of national need. I am sure that colleagues have received many messages and emails about this, as I have.
Last week, one of my constituents wrote to me:
“I am confined to the Freeman”—
—a hospital in Newcastle—
“after a nasty fall. It has given me an opportunity to see the NHS up close and personal. I must say the nurses and others are amazing workers. Doing more than they need without complaint. Their only beef is doing everything masked all the time. However, they keep the rules throughout long shifts. They should be properly rewarded for such skilled and professional work.”
“What I hope for now is less posturing and instead some competent administration. Recognise the contribution of those who continue to work on the frontline. At the very least they must have proper working conditions, remuneration and PPE—and no-one working in the NHS or in a caring role should be asked to pay a surcharge.”
There is clearly widespread agreement across this House that health and care workers deserve recognition, but the question is, how do we best do that? Some have suggested medals or honours. In a statement last month, the Prime Minister said:
“The honours system recognises exceptional contributions made across every part of the UK and will play a key role in demonstrating the nation’s gratitude to all those involved in the response.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 676, c. 32WS.]
He has also said that the Government will consider the creation of a new medal for healthcare workers. That call has been echoed by The Mirror newspaper, with its “Give NHS Heroes a Medal” campaign, which has picked up lots of support, from politicians and trade unions to doctors’ leaders and footballers.