Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate. The “Protect the NHS” slogan represented the very real danger, at the beginning of this pandemic, that the health service might be overwhelmed. That did not happen, I believe, for two reasons: because the public adhered to the strong public health messaging and because our NHS staff stepped up to the challenge.
As the Member of Parliament for Gedling, I receive regular updates from Amanda Sullivan, from NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire CCGs, and Tracy Taylor, the chief executive of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. I would like to thank them for their work in updating me. I was amazed in those updates at the very hard work being done throughout the county at work such as working rapidly to expand intensive care capacity, and for ensuring that the demand for PPE across the county was being met.
I would like to put on record my thanks to the doctors, nurses, GPs, pharmacists, care home workers and other key workers who have worked hard for their dedication. It is clear to me that that dedication and hard work is widely appreciated. As I have walked through my home town of Arnold, I have been amazed at the drawings of rainbows in front windows, showing support for key workers and offering hope for a better time to come.
That better time will, of course, require a strong economy to generate revenues for our public services. I am pleased that, because of that, we have been able to offer a 6.5% pay rise for all staff on the “Agenda for Change” pay scales, including nurses, and the implementation of a five-year GP contract framework. I am also pleased that we have been able to deal with the thorny issue of pension tax rules and the change to the taper allowance at the last Budget, which I know had been a big concern for consultants and made additional work prohibitive. As the British Medical Association has acknowledged, the vast majority of doctors have now been removed from the effects of that taper.
We have faced what is possibly a once-in-a-century event, and I think it is right that we recognise that in some way. A constituent of mine, Elizabeth Gull, has proposed the creation of a medal for NHS workers. When I raised this with the Prime Minister last month at Prime Minister’s questions, I was pleased to see that he considered it to be an excellent suggestion, and I understand the Cabinet Office is looking into the measure.
We should also recognise that NHS staff and others have been working at full capacity for several months now. I hope that there will be some reflection by employers and others about giving assistance not only in pay, but to help them rest and recuperate so that, going forwards, they will be able to work at their full mental and physical strength.