The Government and the whole of British society have made an amazing response to covid and to the challenge that we have faced. We knew very little about it at the beginning, but we have evolved and adapted with time. Society now is so different—who would have believed at the beginning that we would be in this position now, sanitising our hands every time we went into a shop, wearing masks and socially distancing?
We know far more today than we did then, and we understand the impact and cost of covid, but we are also in an increasingly good position to understand the cost of the lockdown. We hear figures about millions of cancer screening appointments and tens of millions of GP appointments not being taken up, and we understand far better that in the weeks, months and years ahead there will be a huge cost from the lockdown, but the details have not been adequately explained to the British people as a whole or to right hon. and hon. Members of Parliament. We heard moments ago about colleagues asking questions—quite reasonable, quite straightforward questions—and getting a six-word answer.
I have written to the Secretary of State to raise concerns about Bolton, which has been in a particularly difficult position with a rather severe lockdown. Constituents tell me about the impact on their mental health, their physical health and their ability to get treatment—it has a cost. I wrote to the Secretary of State on
I have yet to receive a response to my letter, but I do have an answer to my written question about what action has been taken in relation to the 20,000 fewer referrals from GPs to hospitals this year than last. The answer that came back was:
“No specific assessment has been made.”
That is 20,000 people in Bolton as a whole whom GPs think should have a hospital appointment of one form or another. I do not know how many of that 20,000 would be in the category of life or death, but I suspect a very significant number. I suspect that this would be replicated right across the country. To get a six word answer —“No specific assessment has been made”—to cover that 20,000 is disappointing to say the least. It is also covering a health time bomb that will explode. That is already happening at the moment. Far more needs to be done so. Will my hon. Friend commit to delivering a covid lockdown health impact assessment for every constituency around the country?