I thank Catherine McKinnell for setting the scene in this debate, all those who have contributed, and all those who will. I am so very thankful that the debate has been accepted. I had applied for an Adjournment debate on this issue, particularly highlighting the return of NHS staff from retirement—those who returned to the trenches—which is worthy of attention and note as well as the overall NHS effort.
As we watched things unfold in other countries—in Italy, for example—I read inspiring stories that lifted my heart and ones that filled me with dread for our country. I thank the Government for spending the money and making the finance available to source the additional beds to prepare for what was to come. I knew, at the end of the day, the burden that rested on the shoulders of every person in the NHS and in care home facilities—those on the frontline, who did not let us down. Over 20,000 staff returned to the NHS to fight this battle—20,000 people who had already paid their dues and yet were prepared to return and stand in the breach. We thank them for hearing the call and responding to it.
The army of volunteers—some 600,000 people—said, “We will do what we can.” They helped with the shopping lists and the food deliveries. They rang and spoke to the elderly people to be a social lifeline and to ensure that no one was absolutely isolated. We do not know, and possibly may never know, what the whole story of corona- virus would have been without their input.
We thank every consultant, GP, doctor, nurse, nursing ancillary worker, porter, lab technician, cleaner and administrative agency worker—we thank them all. Saying thanks sometimes seem so little for those who signed up to help. I know that sometimes they must have felt that they were in something similar to a warzone. It is my sincere belief that we must do more than just say thank you to all those who went above and beyond their job descriptions and into community hero mode. We appreciate every person who could not see their children or partner because their work was too dangerous, and every exhausted parent who worked their shift and then went home to carry out household tasks, home-school their children, shop and everything else. We appreciate the sacrifices that you made more than words can ever say.
I subscribe to the view of speakers who have said that we should be looking at some sort of financial remuneration and pay rise for those who served on the frontline in the NHS. They do deserve that, but they also deserve investment in the NHS, more training in the NHS, more technology and more staff—all of those things. It is not enough—it can never be enough—but it would be a lasting testament to the battle fought, a reminder of the precious lives lost, and a demonstration that this wonderful United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, always together, always better, can rise to any challenge when we stand together shoulder to shoulder.