I want to place on record my thanks to the pharmacists, GPs, hospital staff and everyone in between across Watford for the amazing work they have done recently and over many years. I sit on the Health Committee—now the Health and Social Care Committee, importantly—which has given me great insight into the challenges that the health and social care sector has faced over the past few months. Over the past 10 or 11 weeks, I have also been a volunteer at Watford General Hospital, literally on my knees cleaning Zimmer frames at times and carrying water to staff. I have been proud to be part of the volunteer hub there, alongside people like Monica, Theo, George, Denise, Linda and so many more who are offering their time for free to help our brave NHS staff as they tackle this terrible pandemic. The hospital has also been working closely with Watford football club, which has provided amazing facilities, including a sanctuary for staff’s mental health.
During this time, I have also been listening. One of our jobs as parliamentarians is to listen. What I have been hearing is that the pandemic has shown how this Government are trying to be innovative, trying to use technology in different ways and, ultimately, trying to unbind the red tape that has held back so many people on the frontline. For so long, we have been stuck in a process of looking at points and targets, and we have forgotten what frontline workers really want. They want respect. They want trust. They want us to cut through the red tape, so that they can get on with their jobs across the health and social care sector. I am hearing loud and clear that, during this pandemic, we have enabled that to happen because we have had to, but we need to continue that.
We also need to listen to what staff really want. I had an eye-opening moment when I was delivering sandwiches to one of the wards, and the nurse said, “Don’t worry about the sandwiches—we’re getting fed over at Watford football club. We get delicious pizza over there, so we probably won’t eat those.” That really opened my eyes to the fact that, while salary is critical, it is also about what life is like on the frontline day after day.
We need to listen to what staff really want, and that is partly about career pathways and opportunities such as sabbaticals after 10 years of working in the same job. It is about corporate discounts, working with the private sector to enable not just NHS staff but social care workers to have free opportunities and discounts and go to the front of the queue. It is also about innovation and the use of data and technology. I believe that, if we look at all those things, although it may not happen overnight—it might take years, perhaps even decades—we can really make a change for the better for all our brave staff and be, not just the biggest employer, but the best employer in the world.