I want to take this opportunity to recognise some of the work being done in my own constituency of Carshalton and Wallington, but also to highlight some of the challenges that these various sectors continue to face as we deal with a big pandemic.
To start with the health and social care sector, as a former NHS worker, I know how dedicated the health and social care staff in the United Kingdom are. St Helier Hospital in my constituency was one of the first hospitals to have to deal with a case of coronavirus and sadly also had one of the first confirmed deaths from the virus, which has taken far too many of our loved ones from us too soon. The hospital’s incredible efforts in caring for patients, consoling grieving families and looking out for the mental health of staff, not to mention keeping other hospital services going, is to be applauded.
The hospital is being supported by the fantastic teams working in our local care homes, and I want to thank providers such as Churchill and MHA, which have engaged constructively with me throughout the pandemic. The care sector plays a vital role, and the pandemic has shone a clear light on the challenges that the sector faces. I look forward to seeing the Government’s proposals for a long-term, sustainable social care plan.
When we talk about the health response to the pandemic, I want to ensure that we do not overlook the fantastic work of our local community pharmacists. I was privileged to have a call with some of our pharmacists earlier in the week. They told me how extremely busy they have been and how they have had to work exceptionally long hours to catch up on dispensing, after seeing hundreds more patients in need of advice on minor ailments. I believe that pharmacists can play an even more vital role in the future by making better use of their advisory capacity and ability to deliver vaccines, taking pressure off GPs, and using their community links to improve the health of local people. I hope that the Minister, in winding up the debate, will say something about the recently published Ernst and Young report on pharmacy funding and how we can further support community pharmacists.
The coronavirus response has not only been about the health and social care sector. It has brought out the best of the entire community in Carshalton and Wallington, and I particularly want to pay tribute to the voluntary sector. Community Action Sutton, Volunteer Centre Sutton and Age UK Sutton have harnessed the good will and the power of hundreds of volunteers. I have met some truly inspirational people as I have joined them to deliver PPE. I thank them for everything that they have done to keep the community going and look after others during the pandemic.
I launched an “unsung heroes” scheme, as many other Members did, to recognise those who have gone above and beyond to help others during the pandemic. I wish I could list the hundreds of amazing stories I heard—people like Connal Donovan and the team at the Duke’s Head pub, who have used their kitchens to cook for elderly people; Su Robertson, the housing manager at Laurel Lodge Retirement Living; and Carshalton High School for Girls, which created over 200 items of PPE for the local hospital. There are so many examples that I could give.
Residents have worked hard to keep the virus down and, understandably, they are quite concerned about being moved into tier 2 restrictions, but I am encouraged that four further testing facilities will open up in the borough, and I was pleased to hear the Chancellor announce further financial support packages today for tier 2 areas such as Carshalton and Wallington. This has been an incredibly tough time for businesses and particularly the self-employed, so I am grateful that the Chancellor has heard those calls and taken appropriate action. As we continue to fight this virus, we need to find a balance between protecting the economy and protecting health, and I am hopeful that, as we continue to tackle this virus over the coming weeks and months, we can strike that balance and come through this together.