It has been said many times, but we should never tire of saying that our NHS and care workers are true heroes and that we are incredibly grateful for their skill, dedication, selflessness and sacrifice. We came out on Thursday evenings to applaud them; now it is time to build a system that rewards them with more than applause. That is why it is important that the Government put their money where their mouth is and start to recognise them, as hundreds of thousands of people in each of these petitions have called for. After a decade of austerity, the NHS and social care system is on its knees. The Government were already missing A&E targets as far back as 2015. We know that the NHS has vacancies of 100,000 and that NHS trusts are £1.23 billion in deficit, which needs to be addressed quickly so that they can get on with the job of protecting us. Then there is the mental health crisis.
Across the NHS and care system, there is the scourge of low pay. Unison predicts that we will need another 1 million extra careworkers by 2025. It is vital that we learn the lessons now and ensure that we have a resilient, well-resourced, effective NHS, where people are properly rewarded and have their skills and expertise recognised, rather than being treated shoddily, which is what we have seen.
We also need the Government to ensure that junior doctors are properly rewarded. The Government’s behaviour in recent years has been appalling, yet the doctors, nurses and carers have been the people on the frontline, saving people’s lives and protecting us. We also know that black, Asian and minority ethnic NHS and care workers have had the highest death rate, yet the Government have been inadequate in protecting them. To be frank, the Government have treated them like cannon fodder and the fact that they do not have proper recommendations for those workers is scandalous. They need to get a grip before more lives are lost.
If the Minister for Care thinks that health and care workers should be protected, she should act instead of saying appalling things about them. I hope she will apologise for the remarks she made recently about care staff. The point is that we need to ensure that, when the crisis eases, this Government do not forget the sacrifice and commitments that people in the NHS and care system have made, and that they act to ensure those people are properly rewarded, properly recognised and protected.