Alongside many other colleagues speaking today, I pay absolute tribute to the healthcare workers in my constituency and also across the entire country. The news today is great, that we are looking at 6,000 more doctors and 12,000 more nurses in the NHS, which is a move towards what we would like to see in the future.
To pick up on the comments of my hon. Friend Peter Gibson, we have both had excellent communications with our local NHS throughout the coronavirus period. Sue and the entire staff of the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust have been absolutely phenomenal, whether at the main hospital in my hon. Friend’s constituency, over at the University Hospital of North Durham, down at Bishop Auckland or in the small community hospitals, such as Weardale in my constituency and Shotley Bridge—which is one of my main campaign issues, just to flag that up to the Minister.
We are desperate for Shotley Bridge to see renewal. The number of beds that it has had to use has increased from eight to 16 over the past few weeks, to look after the extra patients. As Simon Stevens said in evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, one of the things that the NHS wants to look at in the long term is ensuring that we have capacity within the existing NHS estate for crises when they occur.
I also pay huge tribute to the care homes in my patch, in particular Shotley Park and Crescent Homecare in Langley Park, which have been in regular communications with me, to all the other care providers locally and to the pharmacies. Last week, I visited Consett pharmacy, which only does direct delivery to homes. It has seen a 25% increase in the number of people getting those home deliveries, often the most vulnerable in society, people who cannot go out and might not have friends and family nearby. The pharmacy has been delivering direct to homes, which over the past few months has been such a lifeline for many people, in particular those with complex conditions.
I have two final shout-outs. One is for people who were not mentioned when Catherine McKinnell introduced the debate: carers who are still at home, caring for people in a home setting. My dad is one of those; he has been caring for my grandmother throughout this crisis. A lot of people in my constituency have been carers at home, often having to shield themselves with the person they are caring for, and the sacrifices that people have made on incredibly low pay have been phenomenal.
Finally, I associate myself with the comments of my hon. Friend Paul Bristow, who hoped that this will help us to look towards how to integrate the health and social care system in the future. I hope that, across the House, that is something we will be working on going forward.