Neale Hanvey debates involving the Department of Health and Social Care during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 6th July 2021
3 interactions (172 words)
Mon 5th July 2021
3 interactions (85 words)
Wed 16th June 2021
3 interactions (494 words)
Mon 7th June 2021
3 interactions (116 words)
Mon 22nd February 2021
3 interactions (443 words)
Thu 14th January 2021
3 interactions (913 words)
Tue 12th January 2021
5 interactions (177 words)
Tue 12th January 2021
3 interactions (516 words)
Wed 18th November 2020
5 interactions (2,005 words)
Wed 11th November 2020
8 interactions (2,462 words)
Tue 10th November 2020
7 interactions (1,129 words)
Thu 22nd October 2020
3 interactions (564 words)
Mon 21st September 2020
3 interactions (130 words)
Thu 17th September 2020
3 interactions (95 words)
Thu 16th July 2020
3 interactions (106 words)
Mon 23rd March 2020
9 interactions (221 words)
Mon 27th January 2020
3 interactions (931 words)

Covid-19: Contracts and Public Inquiry

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Wednesday 7th July 2021

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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To resume his seat no later than 3.59 pm, I call Neale Hanvey.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba)
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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon), but it is distasteful to listen to the braggadocious glee from the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) when he celebrates the increased rate of covid cases in Scotland—

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Could you advise me on how we can correct the record, because the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey) has distorted what I said only a few minutes ago? Never once did I express any glee at the record number of cases on the SNP’s hands in Scotland. I expressed my concern at what was happening in Scotland. He should withdraw that comment.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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The hon. Gentleman has put it on the record.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey
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The Prime Minister demonstrated today a complete lack of comprehension of the fundamental principles of infection management. Kate Bingham’s achievement in bringing vaccines to market I have rightly celebrated in this place and Westminster Hall, but it is not the only game in town. The Prime Minister has bet the farm on vaccines, but the control and suppression of this virus relies on robust surveillance, treatment and control measures. All of that is at risk of being undone, with £3 billion wasted on tests that are absolutely unreliable. The Innova lateral flow device scandal presents a significant concern across three specific domains: public health, the impact on the domestic diagnostic sector, and a lack of contracting transparency and mounting concerns about chicanery.

On Monday 21 June, at the Dispatch Box, the Under-Secretary of State for International Trade, the hon. Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena), boasted that the Government were “unleashing the potential” of the constituent countries of the UK “by backing British industry”. During that contribution, he derided China for “trade-distorting practices”. The experience of the domestic diagnostic industry differs significantly from that rhetoric. During a covid briefing on 29 June hosted by the Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care, it was asserted that the Government’s position on the United States Food and Drug Administration’s class 1 recall of dangerous and deadly Innova tests was attributed to the FDA’s over-reliance on the manufacturer’s data. Furthermore, it was asserted that the UK Government are utilising public resources at Porton Down in efforts to disprove the Chinese manufacturer’s own data, which suggests that these tests are unsuitable for asymptomatic screening and have been ever thus, and are not endorsed as sensitive to the prevailing delta variant. On 15 March, in a tweet to UK firms Omega Diagnostics and Mologic, Lord Bethell, the Minister for innovation and public health, promised 2 million daily lateral flow—

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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Order. We must now come to the wind-ups. I call Stephen Flynn.

Covid-19 Update

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Tuesday 6th July 2021

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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Yes, I do agree. The vaccine programme is our wall of protection, and every jab builds that wall higher. As immunity wears off, we need to make sure that people get a booster with a third jab. As we have announced, the boosting programme will begin with the most vulnerable cohorts in September.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba)
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I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your indulgence in allowing me to acknowledge the passing from covid last night of Father Stan Swamy, a humanitarian Jesuit priest who had been held in custody in India since October last year. I hope the House will join me in expressing our condolences to all who knew him.

On today’s statement, there is a fundamental weakness in the Secretary of State’s comments. The covid virus did not get the memo and has not read his statement. Vaccines are really important, but if he wants to build a ring of defence around the continued spread of the virus, he will find that surveillance is absolutely key. Last week, I was promised evidence from Porton Down supporting the continued use of Innova lateral flow devices across the country, but that information has not been passed to me. I also asked for the MHRA’s letter recommending the extension of the exceptional usage authorisation, but, again, that has not been forthcoming. When can I expect to receive this important information?

Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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First, may I associate myself with the hon. Gentleman’s expression of condolences? On his substantive question, I am not fully aware of the information he has requested, but I have noted it and will look into it and write to him.

Covid-19 Update

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Monday 5th July 2021

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Sajid Javid Portrait Sajid Javid
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Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The backlog is already at 5 million, and as I have said today, it is unfortunately going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I think we can all understand why, but today’s announcement will certainly have helped in our march to clear the backlog. My hon. Friend will know that the Government have given significant additional funding, in the billions, to help with that, but there will be a lot more to come in dealing with the priorities, especially cancer.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba)
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All the warm words from the Secretary of State towards the NHS at the top of his statement were completely demolished by his attitude towards a breast cancer surgeon when he said that she should know better. The reality is that she does know better, and he should apologise to the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) for those absolutely outrageous comments. And to use the escalation of cases in Scotland as a political tool is absolutely disgraceful. I want to talk about the—

Coronavirus

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Wednesday 16th June 2021

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Liam Fox Portrait Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con)
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I am afraid that the previous speaker will be very disappointed, because we are going to have to live with covid, like we have to learn to live with every other infectious disease that exists in the world. Yes, we have tried to suppress it. Yes, we tried to deal with it, but we will have to learn to live with it. Viruses, the hon. Member may be surprised to know, have been around for 400 million years—a lot longer than us. Guess which one is winning the Darwinian race.

When we do have to make decisions, I think one thing is very clear. Up to this point, the aims of the medical profession and the Government’s advisers and the aims of the Government have been broadly similar, but they will have to diverge at some point, because the medical profession will always want to see the rate of infection brought down to the smallest level possible at whatever cost, but the Government have different considerations. The Government need to ensure that the rest of the health service is able to operate properly, that the economy is moving and that the social and wellbeing aspects of the population are looked after. That is why the aims are different.

While I am at it, on a private note, I am sick to death of the Government’s so-called advisers coming on TV and giving their individual views, rather than giving advice to the Government on a confidential basis. If they want to be stars of Sky News, let them leave SAGE and carve their own path.

On what basis will we decide when we have this divergence? The first thing to say is that the variant will not be a reason for keeping lockdown. The variant may be more transmissible, but that is irrelevant if it is not causing more hospitalisations or more deaths. We have already heard from Public Health England that the two vaccines—Pfizer and AstraZeneca—can cope as well as with the new Indian variant as they can with the Kent variant. We do not need to hear about the variant argument, because I do not think it holds water.

What matters is who is being hospitalised, and where. Are the hospitalisations young people who have not yet had the vaccine, who may be at risk because of the increased transmissibility of the new variant, or is it people, as we have seen in some parts of the country, who have been offered the vaccine, but for one reason or another have chosen not to get it? We cannot have the country being held to ransom by any groups who have been offered a vaccine but have chosen not to take it; that is utterly unacceptable.

It seems to me that the essence of the Government’s case—if the Minister for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), wants to, he can intervene to confirm it—is this: the Government’s strategy was based on a single vaccine strategy, in the belief that, if enough people got it, the efficacy would be high enough that we could unlock at that point. However, the evidence published by Public Health England yesterday showed that the Pfizer vaccine is 94% effective against hospitalisation after one dose, but that AstraZeneca is only 71% after one dose and takes the second dose to get up to 92%.

It seems to me that the Government are telling us— I wish they would be clear about this—that they need a little more time to get people, especially those on AstraZeneca, to the second dose so that there is the level of protection against hospitalisation that we see with the Pfizer vaccine. If the Government presented their case in that way, it would be an awful lot easier for the rest of us to give the Government our support, because that would be a clear rationale.

We also need a clear assurance that the two-week review point is not a ploy to buy support in the House of Commons, but a genuine review of the data, whereby we will see within a couple of weeks whether the hospitalisation rate is increasing or not. If the Government give us a clear assurance that the two-week point is a real review and that we can achieve the full relief of the lockdown at that point, the Minister might be able to buy a little support from his own Benches this evening.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba) [V]
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It feels like we have entered yet another episode of “Hancock’s Half Hour”, but unfortunately it is laughable for all the wrong reasons.

The first motion under debate today is indirectly relevant to Scotland and to my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency. Without independence, Scotland will continue to suffer the consequences of the UK Government’s hapless leadership on covid. Travel agencies in my constituency have another month of pouring money down the drain and another month with no tangible support from the Government. The first motion is England only, so Alba Members will abstain on that principle, but to those who have suffered loss of life and bereavement, the Government’s response of repetitious, braggadocious claims at every juncture must be disheartening. It is more indicative, as I said earlier today, of a Del Boy Britain: “Everything will be fine because we’re British.” But it is precisely why we find ourselves in this position.

This Government have put political priorities over public safety. There was a lack of action on border control at the start of pandemic and with the identification of the delta variant. They have allowed new variants to enter and seed, and the weekend’s failure by the UK Prime Minister to lead the G7 to invest in vaccines and cash in line with the World Health Organisation’s identified need is absolutely unforgivable.

There has been an unwillingness to listen, to learn and to respond; chaotic messaging; and the abandonment of testing in March 2020, instead of using that nadir of the pandemic to expand testing. The Secretary of State has continued with his overconfidence in in-the-field lateral flow test devices, and the chaotic education policy has only made things worse. There are continued huge gaps in support, driving poverty and disadvantage in the face of repeated warnings. These are not just my concerns; many have been raised in the prestigious British Medical Journal.

Not every misstep can be mitigated by the effective work of Kate Bingham’s vaccines taskforce. Recently, the Secretary of State supported my calls for surveillance across a range of indicators to beat the virus, but vaccines are not foolproof.

The G7 chair opportunity was an unforgivable moral failure. Vaccines, cash, but also robust international surveillance, are urgently required. The Government’s growing propensity to ignore scrutiny of Parliament is absolutely staggering, and now the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) derides scrutiny of experts in the media. It has been never clearer than with their vote-dodging reduction in overseas aid and that will not be forgiven.

This is a global and dynamic challenge. The completely inadequate response from the G7 summit risks the development of ever more virulent variants. In the light of that failure in leadership from the Prime Minister, can we get some straight answers—probably not? What action is the Secretary of State taking to secure our public health by working to meet those WHO targets for vaccines, cash and surveillance? Any return to normality will happen only when we are all safe.

Liam Fox Portrait Dr Fox
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Would it be possible for you to convey to Mr Speaker that, while we are still operating under the restrictions that we have in Parliament, we need to try to find ways to intervene on contributions that are being made on video? Otherwise, we are unable to challenge the views of the Scottish nationalists, who claim that the problems that they suffer from in the covid pandemic are a result of the United Kingdom Government’s actions, when they themselves have the same powers to deal with them in Scotland, had they chosen to do so differently, but they have not.

Covid-19 Update

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Monday 7th June 2021

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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We are working on exactly that question. Of course, there is the question in advance of that of the vaccination of 12 to 18-year-olds, on which we are taking advice from the JCVI. We are conducting trials as to what are the best jabs to give, given which two previous jabs people have had, to give them the strongest protection. The third thing we are doing is working with AstraZeneca to develop a vaccine specifically targeted at the variants—that was part of the G7 work and announcements last week. If we can give a flu jab and a covid booster jab at the same time, that would be great. That is also under clinical evaluation, because, obviously, it would make the logistics so much easier over the autumn. Likewise, I am taking advice on which age groups and which groups it should be for: whether it should just be for the over-50s or for everybody; how to vaccinate; what group to put health and social care workers in; and whether there is a special regime for those who live in care homes, as there was in the first round of vaccination, where care home residents and staff came first. All of those are live questions on which we do not yet have answers, but that is the scope of the decisions we need to make ahead of the autumn for the autumn vaccination programme.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba)
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The progress with the vaccination roll-out is really to be welcomed and I give my thanks to all the staff, vaccinators and others who have been responsible for that progress. There are understandable concerns about how we manage and deal with variants, and my questions are centred on that today. What surveillance is taking place on the following measures or what is proposed? These are really important issues: the longevity of immunogenesis and how that is going to be captured; the adaptability of the virus and how that is going to be countered; and the need to modify or develop new vaccines as we progress into a position where the majority of the population are vaccinated.

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating all those involved in the vaccine roll-out, everywhere in the UK. In Scotland, it has been a remarkable effort, with the UK Government working with the Scottish Administration, the NHS across the country, local councils and the armed services—it has been a big team effort, and that has been part of the success of the vaccine roll-out.

The hon. Gentleman asked about three critical areas of the science. Reviews of all three areas are ongoing. They are led by Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, whom the hon. Gentleman may have heard of, who is an absolutely brilliant clinician in this space—there are a lot more people involved who are doing excellent scientific work on these questions. That surveillance on immunogenicity, the work on the next-generation variant vaccine and the work on understanding the variants as we spot them is all going on. Public Health England has done a huge amount of work, working with public health colleagues right across the country, and I am grateful to them all.

Covid-19: Government Handling and Preparedness

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Thursday 27th May 2021

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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Yes, absolutely. It was an enormous pleasure to go to the Isles of Scilly on Monday morning. I did not know that I was the first Health Secretary ever to visit the Isle of Scilly, but frankly it is so wonderful that I would really quite like to be back there before too long. The integration of health and social care that my hon. Friend mentions is happening on Scilly. It is important on Scilly, but it is actually a lesson for everywhere. I have discussed it with the new Conservative-led Cornwall Council—the first ever majority Conservative-led Cornwall Council. The team there and on the Isles of Scilly are doing a great job of integrating health and social care. Scilly, in particular, needs investment in its health infrastructure and support because it is more remote than almost anywhere else. We will deliver these things. Throughout the length and breadth of this country, we will invest in the NHS and integrate health and social care. The Isles of Scilly could hope for no better advocate than my hon. Friend.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba) [V]
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Yesterday’s revelations have only served to reinforce what many have suspected: a tale of chaos, deception, dishonesty and failure, including the reckless suggestion of herd immunity and chickenpox parties. While so many watched aghast, the Secretary of State chose to respond to these very serious allegations by claiming he had been too busy saving lives to even bother. My enduring memory of the Secretary of State yesterday will be of him quite literally running away from his responsibilities.

I want to focus on one vitally important matter that emerged yesterday regarding deaths in care homes. Did the Secretary of State, as alleged, categorically tell Mr Cummings and unspecified others that people would be tested before being transferred into care homes? If he did not, why then was transfer without testing the adopted policy across England and the devolved Governments, including Scotland? On 17 October last year, I asked the Secretary of State to consider tendering his resignation. Surely if all these allegations are substantiated, he must do so.

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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So many of the allegations yesterday were unsubstantiated. The hon. Gentleman’s most important point was that the Scottish Government, with their responsibilities for social care, had to respond to the same challenges and dilemmas as we did, as did other countries across Europe and across the world. We were driving incredibly hard as one United Kingdom to increase testing volumes. We successfully increased testing volumes, including through the important use of the 100,000 testing target, which had a material impact on accelerating the increase in testing, and because of this increased testing we were able to spread the use of tests more broadly. It was the same challenge for the Administration in Edinburgh as it was here in Westminster, and the best way to rise to these challenges is to do so working together.

A Plan for the NHS and Social Care

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Wednesday 19th May 2021

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con) [V]
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I wish to put on the record my support for a robust strategy to tackle obesity, but I question plans to ban broadcasters and online platforms from advertising food and drink that are high in fat, sugar and salt before 9 pm. If the Government are going to have any form of impact, even foods that we consider to be health foods will be covered by the ban. Eggs, cheese and avocado—the list of foods that include those items is endless.

Let us take a look at the ramifications of a ban on TV commercials. I started my retail career with the Pizza Hut chain of restaurants 40 years ago, which is probably long enough ago for me not to have to declare an interest today. Before the pandemic, the UK’s three biggest chains, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Domino’s, got 90% of their sales of pizza online and from apps such as Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats. That is 60,000 jobs directly at risk and tens of thousands more in the supply chain, and that is just three companies in the UK. Do the Government seriously consider that a price worth paying?

Similarly, let us look at breakfast cereals. Under these proposals, we will ban the advertisement of some of our everyday breakfast items. The ironic thing is that over 50% of breakfast is no longer bought from a supermarket, but from cafés and greasy spoons around the nation. That immediately puts at risk major brands such as Kellogg’s, which have spent millions of pounds reformulating their products to reduce fat, sugar and salt, yet under the proposals they will be banned from advertising them before 9 pm. Meanwhile, our mainstream TV companies will lose out on approximately £75 million to £100 million of advertising revenue—revenue on which tax is paid in this country.

The Sun reported in March that the Government were considering doing a U-turn on banning online adverts, as evidence showed that it would have little effect. That has instantly created a chasm between mainstream broadcasters and online platforms that contribute little to the financial wellbeing of the nation because they are offshore companies. Millions of small businesses rely on online advertising to promote their businesses in this country, including in Calder Valley. There is absolutely no evidence that the proposed blanket ban for mainstream broadcasters and online advertising would make one iota of difference to reducing obesity, and I urge the Government to rethink these draconian measures.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba)
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I want to begin by thanking NHS colleagues from University College London Hospitals and from services all the way up to Scotland, including in my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency, for the incredibly hard shift that they have put in over the last year. The warm words of the Prime Minister telling them that he knew how hard it had been for them must be replaced by swift action.

All that the nine words in the legislative programme demonstrate is that the Government fail comprehensively to understand the interdependencies of care services, from intensive and acute care to social, palliative and end-of-life care. In his first speech as Prime Minister on 24 July 2019, the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) promised to

“fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan”.

In his 2019 manifesto, he stated that his Government would seek cross-party consensus. In January 2020, he claimed that he would

“get it done in this parliament”,

yet in October last year, the Minister for Care could not give any commitment in Parliament to the Health and Social Care Committee about action on social care.

We must face the reality of a social care system that at the start of the pandemic was underfunded, understaffed, undervalued and at risk of collapse. Any response to covid-19, however fast or comprehensive, would need to contend with that legacy of political neglect. Despite the Government’s espoused commitment to improving the social care system and introducing proposals in 2021, there is nothing on how they will do so, never mind fixing the system. Integration is undoubtedly the way forward to make the system work, but that requires funding and services that are in good order before it begins. Without social care reform, a robustly funded and continuing cancer recovery plan, as well as core funding for palliative and end-of-life care, services will continue to struggle and people will suffer.

There is an absolutely foreseeable risk. Expecting integrated care systems to find the capacity to reorganise and find end-of-life care pathways with fragile resources is recklessly putting the cart before the horse. This all matters in Scotland. As ever, we are more reliant on Barnett consequentials. All the while, the UK Government find ways to squirrel money away, preventing them from triggering our share. The Alba party amendment to the Gracious Speech recognises unequivocally the recent majority for independence parties in Scotland, calling for immediate progress on independence. The fact that that sentiment has been dismissed by the UK Government comes as no surprise, but the fact that it has been neither echoed nor supported by the victors of that election will not go unnoticed at all.

Dehenna Davison Portrait Dehenna Davison (Bishop Auckland) (Con) [V]
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I would like to begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Robin Millar) and the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Anum Qaisar-Javed) on their excellent maiden speeches. I remember all too well how daunting that is, having made my own maiden speech in the Queen’s Speech NHS debate in January last year.

Since then, our NHS has had the most turbulent of times. I pay tribute to the dedicated healthcare staff in my constituency, working day and night to keep us safe from coronavirus. I pay special tribute to Dr Poornima Nair, a dedicated and well respected GP at the Station View medical centre who died with coronavirus last year. In the House, I have talked about the light at the end of the covid tunnel. Thanks to the success of the UK’s vaccine roll-out, we are now beginning to see that light.

It was a UK grandmother who became the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer covid jab and, from then on, it has been onwards and upwards. The Government’s early focus on securing an extensive vaccine portfolio means that over 57 million doses have been given in the UK. The pandemic has really highlighted the importance of local healthcare and, as I mentioned in my maiden speech, it is one issue that unites every corner of my constituency. That has never been more true. From Bishop Auckland Hospital caring for covid patients to local GP surgeries and pharmacies vaccinating us to get us out of this pandemic, all parts of my constituency have pulled together.

Local healthcare provision matters, and that is why I will never stop banging the drum in this place for improved health services at Bishop Auckland Hospital. I am campaigning to restore the A&E that was lost under Labour, and I am grateful to both the Health Secretary and the Minister of State for Health for meeting me to discuss the campaign.  So far, the Government have invested £450 million to upgrade accident and emergency facilities in more than 120 trusts, so I know they understand how vital A&Es are to local healthcare provision, and I hope my ministerial friends will hear me clearly when I say I will continue to fight for the restoration of our A&E in Bishop Auckland.

The Queen’s Speech has healthcare at its heart, and I want to focus on one aspect that is close to my heart and to my politics: mental health. I have talked in the past about my own struggles around mental health. The importance of talking about it cannot be overstated. Every speech, every conversation, every time we talk about our own challenges that we have faced, we chip away at the stigma, but it is clear that talking about mental health alone is not enough. I am glad, therefore, that the Government are pushing ahead with their reform of the Mental Health Act 1983. Work is already under way on improving access to community-based mental health support, with £2.3 billion a year as part of the NHS long-term plan, but I am looking forward to seeing what further changes are proposed. The stigma around mental health needs to end, and every time we talk about it we help chip away at that stigma. Let us press ahead with improving the situation on the ground, improving mental health support and helping to ensure that no more lives are lost through poor mental health.

Covid-19

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Monday 22nd February 2021

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow (Peterborough) (Con) [V]
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I am conscious of the local situation in my city. I woke up today to hear that infection rates in Peterborough were the fourth highest in the country. On social media, I was told that Peterborough is “letting down Cambridgeshire”, that we are a joke and that I should be ashamed to represent the people who are breaking the rules. BBC Radio Cambridgeshire told me in a live interview that the Millfield and Bourges Boulevard area was the most intense covid hotspot in the country. That is just down the road from my house, where I live. It was later revealed that this spike was due to a covid outbreak at Peterborough prison. This is obviously regrettable, but it is not a reflection of local behaviour.

For much of the pandemic, figures in Peterborough were below the national average. The rate is indeed falling in Peterborough, albeit more slowly than in other areas. Peterborough is a working city. Many people do not have the ability to work from home; they work in factories and customer-facing jobs. If they do not work, they do not pay their bills or put food on the table. For many, lockdown is misery. People without well-paid jobs that can be done from behind a computer screen, without big homes, without nice gardens and without happy homes are desperate.

I welcome the Prime Minister’s plan, but I do not apologise for saying that opening up fully cannot come soon enough. I hear stories of young people wallowing in dismay, worried about their mental health; of businesses struggling with no income; of self-employed people like driving instructors with mounting debts; of one of my school friends in the entertainment business being forced to take a short-term factory job; and of families giving—often all they have—to local charities in order to feel part of something.

We have this cautious approach to opening up, but there is nothing cautious about keeping the lockdown restrictions in place for one second longer than necessary. It causes poverty, hopelessness and despair. So back to my social media trolls, who often have FBPE in their Twitter handle: I am proud of Peterborough—please show empathy and understanding, and be less judgmental. Let us open up as soon as we possibly can by responding to the data and doing the right thing.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP) [V]
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I begin by paying tribute to my NHS colleagues, every key worker, and every volunteer and vaccinator in my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency for their continued and tireless efforts.

Over the weekend, the Secretary of State dismissed the High Court ruling that he had acted unlawfully in his failure to comply with transparency rules by advancing the argument that the ends justify the means. Of course, everyone knows that this is yet more bulldog bluster, attempting to drape a cloak of acceptability over the cronyism at the heart of this Government’s procurement. As everyone across these islands knows, you can’t polish a cowpat.

Earlier today, the Prime Minister made it clear not only that he is willing to defend his Secretary of State’s unlawful conduct, but that he does so by pursuing the same flawed Machiavellian argument—that the ends justify the means. That should concern every Member of this place, because establishing that there has been

“No misuse of taxpayer money and no actual or perceived conflicts of interest”,

is a ministerial commitment authored by the Prime Minister himself, along with the

“precious principles of public life enshrined”

in his own ministerial code—

“integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest”—

which

“must be honoured at all times; as must the political impartiality of our much admired civil service.”

If this Government continue their refusal to disclose the names of companies linked to Ministers, hon. Members, peers and officials that were awarded preferential contracts via a high priority lane, and thereby conceal any material, financial or fiduciary relationship between those entities, that will amount to the most profound breach of the ministerial code possible. We can all make honest mistakes, but the wilful concealment of information that serves to confirm honourable behaviour or otherwise is clearly and irrefutably in the public interest. The publication as such should be of little consequence if there is indeed nothing to hide.

Standing by or surrendering our principles can be costly, but that choice only matters if they are of intrinsic meaning and value to the holder. Even the appearance of manipulating the means to serve other ends is morally and ethically hazardous, and an unwillingness to act with integrity and transparency risks a slip from democracy into authoritarianism. This Government have demanded that we back their plans under a pretence of collaboration, but when they dictate every step and close their ears to other voices, then they seek obedience and acquiescence. The Government must not block or otherwise interfere with the lawful scrutiny of Ministers by Parliament. By backing the unlawful conduct of the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister has made it clear how distant his relationship is with his own ministerial code.

Pauline Latham Portrait Mrs Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con) [V]
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We have had some fantastic news today—some really good news. We have had the Scottish study, which shows that the vaccine is preventing serious illness and that people are not being admitted to hospital in the numbers that they were. We have also heard that the uptake of the vaccine is far higher and that the vaccine is far more effective than anybody had anticipated.

We were told by the Prime Minister that we would be driven by the data, not by the dates, but, sadly, we have the dates, and the dates go on for another four months. Businesses cannot cope with it. Let me give a few examples. A friend of mine can walk around a golf course with his wife, but he cannot play golf with her. There is no sense in that. It is outdoors and it is safe. Golf courses and other outside non-contact sports should be opened up earlier. Hospitality firms spent tens of thousands of pounds on things to make themselves covid secure, but they are not allowed to use them. In the worst weather, we will be able to meet outside, rather than inside in a covid-secure way. That needs to be looked at again, because these businesses are suffering and we will lose many of them.

I want to talk primarily about weddings, which are a big thing in my constituency, as I have a number of wedding venues. Nobody can buy their dresses yet. The mother of the bride cannot get her outfit, her shoes or her hat. Why not? Because weddings are not going ahead. Many couples have already given up their weddings perhaps two or even three times in this past year. They are desperate to get married. They want to have a celebration with their family and friends. The wedding venues have had no money for a year, and we are now talking about another four months before a proper wedding can take place. These businesses are desperate to open up, as are the people who sell the wedding dresses, as are the flower providers, as are the caterers, and as are the suppliers of the wine and the beer. We need them to open up. We need them to be allowed to work again, because if we do not let them open soon, we will lose those industries as well as all the hospitality industries that are so desperate to get going. They are all losing money at the moment. Nothing is covering their costs. They need to be able to get back to work, and all the people whom they have furloughed need their jobs back. I hope that the Prime Minister will look again at where he is going.

Covid Security at UK Borders

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Monday 1st February 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) [V]
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It is 12 months since the first cases of covid-19 hit our shores. Back then, I doubt whether many of us could imagine how the virus would affect our lives throughout 2020 and 2021. It has tested our approach to a global pandemic to the full. It has brought out the best in our NHS, our carers and our public services, and in our sense of community, with the many heroes who have stepped up to help others. I get that the situation is unlike anything that Governments have had to deal with in modern times. Decisions are a matter of life and death, and every country has adopted different strategies to deal with covid-19.

It is easy to criticise, and we have got some things right. The approach to trialling and procuring vaccinations, and upscaling roll-out very quickly, is a real success. However, I cannot help but think that we failed to learn from others earlier in the pandemic, and their best practice. I serve on the Home Affairs Committee, and last year we took evidence from officials in Honk Kong, Singapore and New Zealand—three common law jurisdictions that took different, tougher public health approaches early on. They were much quicker at locking down than us, and they all placed strict restrictions on their borders, with enforced quarantine. We knew back then that it was working, which prompts the question why a similar approach was not taken here. For months, our borders have effectively remained open.

We have been lucky so far. The new strains that have been identified still react to the vaccines, but a future strain might not do so. Until we have some control over international spread and global immunisation there remains a risk here in the UK. Life in New Zealand is nearly back to normal: people can gather, kiss, hug, go to pop concerts, fill stadiums, and enjoy life. Our southern hemisphere cousins called it right: tough—very tough—measures at the start; and strict controls at the border to help control the virus in the country and get back to ordinary life more quickly.

We opted for looser lockdowns, polite requests to self-isolate, allowing international travel to continue in large part, an endless cycle of local restrictions, tiers and national lockdowns—but never getting the virus down sufficiently to stop it bouncing back. Tragically, there are over 100,000 dead, each number a real person. The vaccine offers the first ray of light in over 12 months, but it is still not too late to tackle the border issue, alongside a sectoral support package for aviation. The cross-infection of a new mutant strain will set back any progress that we have made in defeating the virus, and that is why I support the motion.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP) [V]
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Sadly, there are no shortcuts to dealing with covid. Between June and August 2020, Scotland almost eliminated covid, with minimal community transmission. At the same time, England and Wales were also doing well. That was a real opportunity to consider the impact of the slow response, such as in Italy, and what had worked across the world, including approaches in Asia-Pacific and New Zealand, which had experience of managing similar pathogens in the past. It was also an opportunity for cool heads and collaboration, and for dealing with issues such as the £45 billion allocated early on for testing—that testing, however, was slow to materialise. We know that only 30% of people who should self-isolate do so, given the financial implications of doing so. That amplifies community transmission, and people do not have the financial means to self-isolate. Instead of having porous borders, we could have spent time improving our border biosecurity. That was an early lesson from our friends in New Zealand.

Because we did not do that, we imported a soup of different strains, with limited transmission suppression across the country, which is precisely why new variants are emerging. That is how viruses mutate. Last week’s announcement by the Home Secretary was welcome, but those tougher measures at the UK’s external borders are months overdue and reflect what many other countries have had in place since the beginning of the pandemic. Despite having responsibility for public health, the Scottish Government cannot unilaterally close the border in Scotland.

That brings me to vaccine nationalism, which has been an emerging discussion point in recent days. Fourteen per cent. of the world has 83% of the vaccine stock. We urgently need to correct that, not just because it is unjust, but for the long-term management of covid, without which there will be no long-haul holidays and no meaningful aviation recovery, and while the JCVI and Governments across the UK work on vaccine deployment, that will be for nought if our borders remain porous.

On test to fly, many lateral flow test devices are insufficiently sensitive. That is accepted by the Scottish Government, but not by the UK, and it is a mistake in the making. The PM’s bulldog optimism has not stopped covid. Only by learning from others across the world, deploying corrective measures at our borders, and working to distribute vaccines equitably will we beat covid. The burden and the solution are shared across the world.

Andrea Jenkyns Portrait Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) (Con) [V]
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When I saw the motion tabled by the Labour party on covid security at the borders, I was surprised, given the party’s remarks on the subject not so long ago. Only last summer, members of the shadow Cabinet were arguing for the Government’s quarantine measures to be lessened, and they later claimed in the House that those measures were a mere “blunt tool”. Their flip-flopping is a further example of their hollow opportunism, and Labour Members have relied on hindsight in their public statements throughout the course of the pandemic.

Let us look at the facts regarding the Government’s actions. Everyone arriving in the UK is required to isolate in either a hotel or at home. The Government are taking steps to ensure that those returning from high-risk countries do so in compliance with the isolation measures. Those include greater physical checks to ensure compliance during the mandatory isolation period. That was introduced hand in hand with the requirement for each and every passenger from abroad to present a negative covid-19 test result before departing for England. Furthermore, the suspension of all travel corridors is evidence to my constituents of the far-reaching steps being taking to tackle the threat of newly found and ever more infectious variants of the coronavirus.

Let us be clear about the nature of this threat. These measures, which I believe are far-reaching, are vital to tackle that threat, which risks undermining the roll-out of our vaccine programme. Given the world-leading success of our vaccination programme, we must do all we can to protect it. The Government continue to do that by using some of the strongest measures in the world. Those measures have allowed us to deliver a vaccination programme that delivers more than 250 jabs a minute—a daily rate that is higher than anywhere in Europe—and a programme that will have offered everyone in the top four priority groups a jab by the middle of this month. Why would we want to undermine that success?

The United Kingdom is a world leader in so many areas, and we should take pride in our ability to create and manufacture the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, which has already been given to more than 8 million people. Let us work together in the spirit of cross-party co-operation, without party political positioning. We need to move forward with pride in our nation, build back better, and see the global Britain that we have long awaited.

Long Covid

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Thursday 14th January 2021

(9 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I realise that a number of colleagues have not been able to get into this debate. As I have said, we had a very short time for it. The Front Benchers have agreed to speak for less time than they normally would, and I now call the Scottish National party spokesperson, Neale Hanvey.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP) [V]
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I commend the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) for securing this important debate. Long covid is a prevalent and growing concern that is every bit as important as community transmission rates, excess mortality rates and the consequential impacts on other life-saving services, such as cancer services. It is evident in my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency. Bailey-Lee Robb, an 18-year-old student from Lochgelly, tested positive in October. He was isolated originally in his university accommodation, but he has now returned home to recuperate. He told me:

“Due to Long Covid I’m on painkillers as I have bad lower back and knee pain; I still have a loss of smell; shortness of breath; short-term memory loss; insomnia; and some of my body randomly breaks out in rashes. While I try to lead a normal life, some days I can’t leave bed because I’m that sore and exhausted. It’s horrible!”

He felt that the impact on young people is important. Even if fewer young people are dying from covid-19, long covid could be with them for a lifetime. There is a pressing need for Governments to raise public awareness of long covid, to urge lockdown compliance and to limit community transmission.

Research suggests that 10% of the infected population will suffer from long covid and, in line with other post-viral syndromes such as ME, it may become a chronic, potentially lifelong condition. The president of the British Society for Immunology has said:

“As the pandemic has gone on, it has become clear that…Covid-19 is more far reaching than affecting just the respiratory system”.

They went on to note that this may be a consequence of a generalised systemic inflammatory response, mediated by the body’s “cytokine storm” against covid. Shortness of breath can lead to pulmonary fibrosis, and circulatory, cardiovascular, renal, neurological and mental health impacts, and very real survivorship challenges, including depression and suicidal thoughts.

The British Heart Foundation, the British Lung Foundation and others also recognise the role that inflammation plays in the disease’s progression. Anyone working in an intensive therapy unit knew long before covid that such a systemic inflammatory response can lead to multi-organ failure and death.

Long covid is real, and it also affects young people such as Bailey-Lee. There is limited empirical evidence on how to diagnose, support, treat and rehabilitate sufferers. In Scotland, we advocate an holistic approach, and we are currently considering the organisation of services. More than 70,000 Scots will be provided with free vitamin D, which is recognised as having a role in prevention and moderation of morbidity. This week, Food Standards Scotland launched a vitamin D campaign for the general public. The Scottish Chief Scientist Office recently concluded research calls into the long-term effects of covid-19, with funding totalling £2.5 million being recommended for nine projects across Scottish universities. In addition to that funding, the Scottish Government are supporting an ongoing study on the longer-term lung health of covid-19-related acute respiratory distress syndrome survivors, and they are also supporting Scottish participation in the UK-wide post-hospitalisation covid-19 study.

Of course, it is also key to listen to those living through the condition, such as Long Covid Scotland and the Post Covid Syndrome Support Group. That is vital to improve understanding of the longer-term effects and develop effective clinical interventions to support recovery and rehabilitation. Post Covid Syndrome Support Group founder Louise Barnes has called for a shift to effective treatment after she made contact with a clinical team in South Africa regarding a peer-reviewed study looking at the use of a six-vitamin stack protocol. Despite being sceptical, Louise felt that she had nothing to lose so participated in the trial. Within three days, she saw notable improvement:

“I felt within days almost back to normal”.

That study is promising, as we know from leukaemia treatment the valuable role that vitamins or micronutrients can play. Of course, a six-vitamin stack will not suit big pharma unless they develop an analogue of the vitamin stack that they can patent. I have not looked into the detail of the study, but it is very positive and deserves serious consideration.

What is the UK Government’s strategy? It is clear that we must take action now. We must properly record, research and develop means to defeat the mechanisms of long covid. Otherwise, we are creating further resource and financial burdens for the NHS well into the future. Will the UK Government develop appropriate additional support and funding for the NHS to meet these challenges, however they are to be delivered? Will the Government now accept the pressing need for continuation of the £20 universal credit uplift and its extension to legacy benefits, in the light of long covid?

We also need action on sick pay rates. The UK has one of the lowest sick pay rates in the OECD. The SNP has continuously called on the UK Government to increase SSP in line with the real living wage. It is a disgrace. The UK Government’s meagre £95.85 rate of SSP is poverty pay in comparison with Ireland, where the rate is £266, and other countries such as Germany and Austria, where it is more than £280. Long-term, meaningful economic support must be put in place for long covid sufferers. Will the UK Government immediately increase SSP, so that long covid sufferers have financial support? Most importantly, will the UK Government match the Scottish Government’s ambition and fund research into post-covid syndrome, allowing sufferers hope that their new normal is not post-covid syndrome or long covid?

Rosena Allin-Khan Portrait Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (Tooting) (Lab)
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I would like to begin by thanking the hon. Members for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) and for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) and my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) for securing the debate, and I thank all Members for their very personal contributions.

For thousands, covid-19 is something neither succumbed to nor overcome in a matter of days. For many, it has lasting mental and physical impacts that affect the body many months after initial infection. It is nearly a year since the first case of coronavirus was recorded in the UK, and still very little is known about the debilitating post-covid syndrome. I pay tribute to the LongCovidSOS group and all the online support groups that work tirelessly to raise this issue and support one another.

At this stage, we cannot say with any real certainty what exactly long covid is. Nor we can accurately predict the true number of people suffering symptoms of long covid. The Office for National Statistics has published estimations suggesting that the proportion of people displaying symptoms for a period of over 12 weeks could be as many as one in 10. Let us be clear, this is not a syndrome being experienced by a small minority of people. There is also finite evidence on the best way to treat the condition, which has vastly varied symptoms. Without a clear understanding of exactly what the condition is, this makes it far more difficult for health professionals to manage and support those who are affected by it. With better data collection and further research, and by listening to those living with long covid, we can begin to effectively treat the condition. Will the Minister please outline what work the Government are doing to close this gap in knowledge?

What we do know for certain is that the symptoms of long covid can be severe, completely debilitating and utterly crippling, preventing people from living their normal lives. This impact can have a detrimental effect on people’s mental health, their wellbeing and, as we have heard today, their physical wellbeing. It leaves many unable to return to work months after their initial battle with the virus and causes a great deal of uncertainty in already anxious minds. It is crucial to understand that this stress and anxiety can cause relapses in the condition, as sufferers themselves have told me.

Many people with long covid do not know when or if they will return to work. Without action from the Government, the long-term social and economic consequences of this could be grave. Key workers have an increased risk of catching covid. NHS workers in particular are at least three times more likely to contract it than the general population, and this could wreak havoc on our frontline workforce. What steps are the Government taking not only to protect the NHS workforce further but to ensure that staffing levels are such that patients continue to be treated and the population continues to be vaccinated?

The availability of treatment and care for individuals experiencing long covid must be a matter of immediate concern to the Government, and I urge them to adopt a patient-led approach. Could the Minister please outline what progress has been made on setting up long covid clinics, and what plans the Government have to extend this programme in 2021? There simply cannot be a postcode lottery of service provision for long covid sufferers. No one person’s life is more valuable than another, and the Government must ensure that that is reflected in access to treatment.

Some long covid patients are being denied referral because they never had a positive covid test. For the many people who suffered with covid in the first wave back in March and April and were not eligible for testing at the time, that is proving incredibly frustrating. Will the Minister outline what measures the Government will take to ensure that people do not miss out on much needed treatment, particularly if they fall into the category of people who were unable to have a covid test in the first wave?

The Government have to step up and show leadership. There has to be clear messaging to the public to ensure that they are sufficiently informed about the condition and about where to seek help if they need it. That messaging needs to combat the misinformation about covid that is out there presenting it as a myth or similar to the flu. I would like to pay tribute to the former MP for Leigh, Jo Platt, who, along with LongCovidSOS and support groups on Facebook, is campaigning tirelessly on this issue. As Jo told me, there are no words to describe how covid deniers have made her feel. She said: “For people to seriously deny our experiences has been soul-destroying.” We have to get this right.

It is also essential that healthcare professionals at every level of the NHS are properly trained to treat long covid, distinguishing between the different conditions that fall under the term. This includes frontline mental health workers, as the mental health implications of long covid can be severe. Within an acute crisis, it is far too easy to push longer-term concerns to the periphery. Should the Government continue to do this with long covid, they do so at their peril.

Throughout this crisis, far too many people have felt that their voices have been silenced. For the sake of the health and wellbeing of all those living with long covid, please do not silence them. There is still so much that is unknown about this virus and how it affects us, but one thing that is certain is that long covid should be a matter of serious concern, and without concerted action by the Government we may be living with the consequences of this for many years to come. We are still learning so much more about the impact of covid-19 on our communities, our bodies and our wellbeing. There are thousands of people out there currently suffering with long covid. They are relying on us, and on the Government, to get it right for them.

Oral Answers to Questions

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Tuesday 12th January 2021

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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We absolutely recognise not only the importance of self-isolation, which is critical in breaking the chains of transmission, but that it is not always easy for people to do. We recognise, for instance, the cost of self-isolation, and that is why we introduced a payment of £500 for those who are on low incomes and unable to work from home while isolating. We will continue to make sure that people have the support they need to self-isolate.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
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What the evidential basis is for the use of Innova lateral flow tests for covid-19 in the asymptomatic population. (910583)

Matt Hancock Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Matt Hancock)
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The Innova lateral flow tests for covid-19 identify a substantial proportion of those who are shedding viral load due to their covid-19. We of course identify, analyse and publish the evidential basis for the use of these tests, as with the other tests that are used in the national testing programme.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey [V]
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I would like to thank the Secretary of State for that answer, and I thank him also for his helpful response to my questions in the Select Committee last week. In that spirit, he will know that I have been pursuing the use of lateral flow tests since early November, when concerns were first raised. Unfortunately, some of those concerns continue to persist—not least when they were underscored by a communication from his Department as recently as 11 December, which stated:

“We are not currently planning mass asymptomatic testing; swab testing people with no symptoms is not an accurate way of screening the general population, as there is a…risk of giving false reassurance. Widespread asymptomatic testing could undermine the value of testing, as there is a risk of giving misleading results.”

Given those ongoing concerns, I would be most grateful if the Secretary of State committed to a meeting to consider those concerns in a bit more detail—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I think the Secretary of State can take an answer off that.

Covid-19

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Tuesday 12th January 2021

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Heather Wheeler Portrait Mrs Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con) [V]
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It is a pleasure to speak again today about covid-related matters. To be frank, the supply of the vaccine in South Derbyshire has been slow, but now the area is gearing up. Those in the northern part of the constituency are being invited to the Derby Arena—the velodrome—which I am extremely pleased is up and running, and from the end of this week, we will have a stand-alone centre in Swadlincote. That is an area of 50,000 people, and only those in the top four tranches will be invited as soon as possible. It has taken a lot of kicking and screaming to get to this point, and when we do a national review of how things have happened, we will also need to do a local review. However, we are getting there now.

I would also like to talk about where we need to be going on the mental health side of things, particularly for the people who feel that they have been forgotten about financially. We have sent the Chancellor a couple of new ideas about the directors’ income support scheme and other matters, such as the money coming back from supermarkets. It is not just a financial matter. I am concerned about the mental health of some of the constituents I am receiving emails from, and I will be negotiating again an uplift in mental health services for the people of South Derbyshire who need them in these extraordinary times.

I will not go on for long because there are lots of speakers, and some people have missed out in these debates. I will wrap up now by saying a huge thank you to our shopworkers, frontline services, NHS, ambulance people and everyone who keeps the show on the road. It has been a massive community effort. In South Derbyshire, we have rapid lateral flow tests and we will have the sites for the vaccines. That will make a huge difference to everyone’s feeling about finding a way out. I end with my grateful thanks for everything that everyone is doing.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP) [V]
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I do not think it is controversial to say that we are not in a place where any of us would choose to be right now. It is not a time for taunts about U-turns or to respond with personal or flippant remarks; our constituents need grown-ups in the room.

The Secretary of State requests that the House get behind his decision, but if he is to achieve that his approach must change. There needs to be less personal attack and greater clarity. We all need to listen more carefully to voices whose opinions differ from ours, from the frontline to the experts and all Members of this place.

I am as determined as the next right hon. or hon. Member to see the back of the pandemic. With more than 7,000 excess deaths since March 2020 in England alone, not one of us should want to prolong this tragic loss of life. But without a realistic and determined strategy, we risk continued failure to contain the threat. If all Members are to truly get behind any such strategy, it must be forged with as broad a consensus as possible—cross-party and respectfully with the devolved Governments. I firmly believe that that is the only way we can move towards an end to this crisis and the elimination of community transmission.

Such planning should encompass all relevant areas of Government, ensuring that disbursement of financial support always results in equitable consequentials. There must be some movement from the Government to address the devastation inflicted on the 3 million who have been excluded from support; repeatedly telling them how generous the Government have been to everyone else only serves to pour more salt on their wounds and lacks any semblance of humanity. The compelling case for the retention of the extension to legacy benefits, the £20 universal credit uplift, is a move supported by 60% of people across the UK. Indeed, there is a well-trodden shopping list of issues that some in this House would argue a case for, and I believe that they do so for the most honourable of reasons.

The most pressing of matters, of course, is our direct response to the threat of the virus to life. We know that we cannot firefight our way out of this current position, if that is how we got to this place. Vaccines are welcome, but the science has yet to bear out their impact on the transmission of coronavirus. As the virus remains prevalent and circulating in the community, the risk of further mutation remains.

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said that this has been “the toughest year” that any staff member “can remember”, and that NHS England is back in the “eye of the storm” that it faced earlier last year. The handclapping on the doorstep and the warm words of appreciation ring hollow without recognition and proper reward. The resilience of cancer services has again been severely tested, and Parliament must consider, monitor and scrutinise the short-termism of the cancer recovery plan. We need a plan for the future, and it needs to be one with consensus.

Ian Liddell-Grainger Portrait Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset) (Con) [V]
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I greatly appreciate the chance to contribute my local experience, Mr Deputy Speaker.

In my constituency, two more people died yesterday, thousands have caught the disease and it is getting worse, even in the remotest depths of rural Somerset. We face a vicious enemy that attacks without warning and has the power to exploit even the smallest human error. Let down our mask or hug the grandchildren, and we could—I am sorry to say it—die. No one likes lockdown, but obeying the rules is vital, and so is setting a positive public image.

It is a great pity that Somerset County Council is still planning to run public surveys about local government reform, while the daily death toll across the county continues to rise. The Government gave Somerset an extra £32 million to tackle covid; £10 million—I repeat, £10 million—went straight into the council’s reserves. It even had the barefaced cheek to shift almost £0.5 million into a savings fund for its own carparks. What a cheap trick! Words fail me at the lack of decency and care for people’s real interests and needs.

We all know that Ministers have long-term plans to reform local government, but it is no time for the county council in Somerset to be cooking the books to make themselves look like financial wizards. As for the county council wasting time on surveys, which it is now planning to do right through January and February, how dare it treat us with contempt? It will be pestering people who are frightened by a disease that is still spreading fast.

The county has put the districts in an impossible position. They would much prefer to leave this alone until such time as the pandemic is over, but the county council insists on wasting public money and running consultations, and the districts are seriously expected to carry on as though nothing has happened. The Government need to take the lead to completely freeze this whole local government reform programme.

So far, worldwide, almost 2 million human beings have been killed by covid. In this country, the death toll tonight is more than 82,000—the population of my constituency. One day, our descendants may ask, “What did you do in the pandemic?” I really do not believe that any self-respecting Minister will want to admit responsibility by saying, “I pushed ahead with local government reform.” It is irrelevant. It is an unnecessary sideshow while so many of our residents are desperately trying to protect their own lives and those of their loved ones.

We hope and pray for a swift roll-out of the new vaccines. Some teething problems are inevitable, and in Somerset there are elements that have been delayed, so I have a positive and constructive suggestion for the Minister. Why not report vaccines in the same way as infections: area by area, week by week, day by day? We would like to know exactly how many jabs have been given across our county and who is getting them. If the Minister could do that, it would make all our lives easier.

Covid-19

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Wednesday 18th November 2020

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. I am terribly sorry, but the six minutes are up. I know that before I call you, Mr Hanvey, you will be conscious of the time constraints on other people.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
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18 Nov 2020, 12:03 a.m.

This global pandemic has shaken the lives of so many. The pain from the loss of loved ones, friends and colleagues has been compounded by redundancy or business failure, as support for key sectors has failed to materialise or people have found themselves excluded from the UK Government schemes. As we now pin our collective hopes on the brightest and the best delivering promising vaccine candidates into clinical use, we must turn our minds to our recovery and how we choose to build a better, greener and fairer future for our communities.

I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to those who have contributed to the spirit of community across my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency. First, I pay tribute to Tricia Marwick, the chair of the NHS Fife board, and to its members, to Dr Chris McKenna, the medical director, and Helen Buchanan, the director of nursing, and to every single member of staff on the frontline, to whom we owe so much.

I would also like to pay tribute to the local media outlets—the Fife Free Press, the Central Fife Times, K107 community radio and Kingdom FM—all of which have helped my constituents stay informed and updated and have kept us all safe. I pay tribute to the many community lifeline groups, such as the Cottage Family Centre, which aims to ensure that no child or family goes hungry, cold or without presents this Christmas; Love Cowdenbeath, whose online presence has been supporting the local community and retailers; and Linton Lane Centre, which sadly, like other groups across my constituency, had to cancel its annual Christmas day meal for seniors, but will aim to distribute 100 hampers to those who would have attended.

There are so many other examples that I simply do not have time to mention, but the spirit of community that has emerged from this dreadful pandemic is built on hope and an aspiration to do better by our neighbours and, like much of my constituency, is bursting with vision, ambition and confidence that a better future is possible.

Such a future is possible, but it is imperilled by decisions made in this place, led by a Prime Minister who considers our considerable achievements in government and our shared aspirations a mistake and does not see a case for further consideration. I put it to the House that, in our recovery from covid-19, it is the independent countries that will do better. By following the path of regaining democratic control of our own country, our people will be richer, our influence for good greater and our future brighter.

However, the PM’s unguarded words have undermined even article 19 of the Acts of Union, which he purports to uphold. He poured scorn on Scots’ ability to make their own laws while, in his words,

“free-riding on English taxpayers”,

describing it as “simply unjust”. I would be interested to know if the Minister genuinely thinks that the people of Scotland believe that a Government with such an appalling track record—of austerity, welfare cuts, the two-child cap, the bedroom tax, benefit sanctions and the unfair manner in which the Women Against State Pension Inequality have been treated—are uniquely benevolent when it comes to Scotland. Of course she does not, and the facts expose the mendacity of that obtuse notion.

It is a matter of record that in each of the 30 years prior to the introduction of “Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland”, Scotland generated more tax revenue per head for the UK Treasury than the rest of the UK. If the Minister believes that with 8.2% of the population Scotland creates between 50% and 60% of the UK deficit, will she please direct me to where that money was spent and by whom? Will she also tell me why the people of Scotland should have any confidence in this place to help Scotland build a better future post covid? I can provide the Minister with the answer: they do not.

According to the latest gold-standard Scottish social attitudes survey, 61% of people say they trust the Scottish Government to work in the national interest, but just 15% trust the UK Government to do likewise. The gulf is even wider when it comes to leadership. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s approval rating in Scotland is 100 points above that of the Prime Minister, with one commentator—a Unionist, as it happens—stating today that

“that is the good news”

for the Prime Minister, since he suspects that he has

“not yet reached rock bottom”.

That distrust will only grow as the cronyism at the heart of this Government continues to be exposed. Today the National Audit Office released its damning report on the UK Government’s procurement practices during the pandemic, which confirms what we have been saying for months about a Government failing to manage conflicts of interest, doling out public money to clearly unsuitable companies and improperly avoiding scrutiny.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think the hon. Member will probably agree with me that what is galling for so many people is the £10.5 billion of contracts given out without proper tender processes and without transparency, if we contrast that with the 3 million people in this country—people who have been self-employed for a short time, company directors of small limited companies and many others—who have been completely excluded from support. A small fraction of that amount of money would have kept food on their tables and a roof over their head.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey
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18 Nov 2020, 12:04 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes the extremely important point that the avarice attached to these contracts undermines any sense that the Government are putting their arms around anyone, let alone the whole country. I would be interested if the Minister could indicate whether the Prime Minister will heed SNP calls—in fact, cross-party calls—for a full public inquiry into the cronyism at the heart of this Government. Convincing answers are urgently needed as to why so many Tory friends, relatives, donors and prominent lobbyists were awarded jobs and privileged access to UK Government meetings and decision making.

The National Audit Office has exposed and confirmed the existence of VIP lanes in which unsuitable companies were often placed by the private offices of Ministers, and they were more than 10 times as likely to win a contract as other suppliers. Recent weeks have seen reports that £1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money has gone to companies linked to the Conservative party. Concerns have also emerged over the weekend about privileged access for lobbyists with links to the Conservative party, without any public process or announcement.

With so much suffering across these islands, it is vital that there is full transparency and that the public have confidence in the manner in which the UK Government spend taxpayers’ money fighting coronavirus. As we heard last week from the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson), rather than support experienced and established UK-based PPE providers, the Government chose 12-week-old businesses with no experience or capacity to provide PPE. How can UK-based companies survive when their Government cut them off at the knees? If everything is above board, surely the Minister will have no issues indicating her support for an inquiry.

Yet that is not the only economic vandalism of this Government during the pandemic. Despite the promises to wrap their arms around everyone, support remains poorly targeted and offers no relief for people who have become self-employed more recently or to businesses in my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency such as RG Construction, which was denied £64,000 of furlough support on a technicality it could never have predicted or met. Will the Minister undertake to ask the Treasury to review these entry requirements to open up support to self-employed people and other businesses that have so far been excluded?

The Government sprang into action to provide countless contracts for their wealthy friends, but that sense of urgency is sadly lacking when it comes to taking action on social care reform, pay awards for frontline NHS staff or addressing the poverty of carers. This week on the Health and Social Care Committee, we heard evidence that healthcare assistants were not being provided with the same standard of PPE as more senior staff, leading to stress, anxiety and burnout. This risk of burnout is all the more concerning when it comes to how we recover the delays in cancer treatment precipitated by the pandemic. The King’s Fund has described an already existing problem of chronic excessive workload in the NHS. This week we heard expert evidence that that, in combination with the culture that demands ever more, can lead to serious mental health problems. What action is the Minister taking to address these pressures and challenge such an unhealthy culture in the NHS?

I would like to pay tribute to Macmillan lead cancer nurse Denise Crouch for her valuable evidence highlighting the pressure cancer nurses have been facing before and during covid-19. Macmillan has highlighted serious shortages in the cancer workforce, in which 2,500 specialist cancer nurses are needed to meet current demand, rising to 3,700 by 2030. I say with genuine sensitivity that this pandemic has thrown into even sharper focus the fragility of our NHS workforce and the need for fast-paced and substantial action. I would be interested in what action the Minister has taken to secure additional capacity in the NHS beyond March 2021 and to invest in the cancer workforce as part of next week’s comprehensive spending review.

Work-related stress is also being amplified elsewhere. Where is the urgency or action addressing the deeply immoral exploitative practice of firms firing workers only to rehire them on significantly reduced terms? This fire and rehire practice has sadly emerged in many sectors, most notably in aviation. Those are not the only threats to our ability to build back better after covid. To pile misery on misery, the Government are persisting with their plan—I use that word in the loosest of terms —with no regard to the consequences or the views of the people of Scotland.

What of the £20 uplift to universal credit? With so many now facing redundancy, this must be made permanent and extended to legacy benefits. These calls are backed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save the Children. Can the Minister not see the need for this support and the positive impact that such support could have on health and wellbeing? If the UK Government are as keen they claim to be on protecting people, why is it that their own workforce in the Department for Work and Pensions, already equipped to work from home as part of a pilot, are being forced to work in an office one day a week in the face of covid clusters occurring among their colleagues?

In Scotland, we see things through a different lens. As a small country, we ascribe more value to the view that intangible infrastructure such as education and healthcare form the backbone of a country. The Credit Suisse country strength indicator places six small countries in the top 10. Small countries make up more than half of the world’s top 30 countries, with Scotland showing higher scores on the UN human development index than the UK as a whole.

Scotland must build back better, and that is only possible with the full powers of an independent nation. A new YouGov poll across Britain revealed that 85% of respondents from Scotland think that the UK Government are doing badly at handling the UK’s exit from the European Union. An expert study from Warwick University earlier this year revealed that Scotland is already £3.9 billion worse off as a result of Brexit, losing £736 per head of population, with Aberdeen the worst hit at £9,000 per head. Separately, Scottish Government analysis revealed that Tory plans to end the transition period in 2020 could cut £3 billion from the Scottish economy in two years on top of the impact of coronavirus. It is no wonder then that 14 polls in a row now show a majority of support for independence in Scotland, with the most recent poll by Panelbase showing support at 56%. I know that my focus on Scotland and the interests and aspirations of my constituents tire some on the Government Benches, but there is a simple and obvious solution available to them.

In closing, the difference between the independence regularly celebrated on the Government Benches and the one that Scotland will choose soon is that Scotland wants independence to join the world whereas the real separatists sat on the Government Benches have sought separation to be an isolated and rudderless state. It is no wonder that support to abandon the UK separatists is growing, and growing in the majority of Scotland.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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18 Nov 2020, 12:08 a.m.

The time limit is reinstated.

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Services: Covid-19

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Thursday 12th November 2020

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department of Health and Social Care
Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (in the Chair)
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We have 30 minutes now for the Front Benchers to respond and to allow a little time for Mr Tracey at the end.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

12 Nov 2020, 2:36 p.m.

I thank the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) for securing this very important debate, and I congratulate him on his compassion and lucidity in presenting his case. I start by paying tribute to all the NHS, research and charity staff who have been working on the frontline in their respective disciplines to ensure that we move through this challenging time and continue to meet the challenges of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer, with one in seven women affected, and the impact of covid-19 is most keenly felt by those women and has the greatest potential to affect the lives of so many because of its prevalence. Covid has had an impact on almost every aspect of our lives. We have heard that 1 million women have missed their breast cancer screenings, but the covid pandemic has affected all aspects of the cancer pathway, from screening and diagnosis to treatment and follow-up care.

The reasons are varied, and include concern and fear over attending, cancellations due to re-deployment and the impact on the wider NHS services, radiology, surgical, medical and clinical oncology. All of those aspects of the treatment pathway have felt the impact, including, as I mentioned earlier, the capacity for clinical trials and research. In that spirit, I led a cross-party letter to the Chancellor asking for the Government to consider the establishment of the life sciences charity partnership fund to support the charities that have been significantly affected by the covid pandemic.

The design and success of cancer treatment is absolutely reliant on early diagnosis, as it allows rapid progress to treatment, prompt surgical intervention in the case of breast cancer, and onward to radiotherapy or chemotherapy, or indeed both. As such, it maximises the efficacy of those interventions, whilst allowing tissue and immune systems to recover. However, there are challenges.

The Royal College of Radiologists has highlighted that there has been a reduction in referrals for symptomatic breast cancer within the two-week wait standard and a reduction of clinical capacity. There have been some innovative moves, where appropriate, for a hyperfractionation of radiotherapy treatment schedules. The royal college also noted that radiologists are having to deal with attendance anxiety. It has, however, also noted innovative changes to the configuration of services, which have enabled some of the softer aspects of cancer care to continue where possible.

The impact on the challenges that were already present prior to covid also needs to be considered. I remember—more years ago than I would like to mention—when I was involved in peer reviews with a London cancer network there was already a shortage of radiologists within the cancer pathway. That problem has, sadly, not gone away. It is not a problem unique to the English system at all. There is at least one consultant vacancy in clinical oncology. Another important issue to consider is that the attrition rate for consultant posts is greater than the ability to recruit. Thus, there is a pressing need to move these challenges forward.

The new ways of working—telemedicine, Hospital at Home, and other innovations—need investment. There is also a need to reassess the skill base of the workforce and acknowledge chronic excessive workload, which has been highlighted by The King’s Fund. According to Macmillan, there is a need more generally to recruit around 2,500 cancer nurses alone—of course, other disciplines, from GPs to radiographers, also need consideration for recruitment.

The post-covid recovery plan must include significant investment in diagnostics and treatment, radiology, recruitment and training in specialist allied disciplines. Effectively, the covid pandemic has landed a narrow aperture at the point of diagnosis for many cancers and, because of its prevalence, breast cancer is a significant cohort. To widen that aperture, there is a real and pressing need for funding to come forward in the comprehensive spending review; it must deliver an expansion of service to support innovation, fund the NHS plan and support social care.

It is important to acknowledge that staff in hospitals have been working incredibly hard throughout the pandemic, but there is only so much that we can squeeze out of them, and we cannot rely on a never-ending supply of goodwill and extraordinary resilience. My suggestion echoes a plea from my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), who is a breast cancer specialist herself: clinical audit and quality improvement standards need to be at the heart of the drive forward. That work has been commended by the Nuffield Trust in its “Learning from Scotland’s NHS” paper.

We need to support getting it right first time, while making great strides to enable clinical outcome data to be captured and the impact to be fully understood. In short, substantial investment is no longer optional, and I hope that in the spending review the Government make the necessary investments, as called for by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, to ensure that that is brought forward.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)
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12 Nov 2020, 2:37 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I start by thanking the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey) for securing this important and timely debate and for his excellent introductory speech. He made a number of important points, some of which I hope to return to, and I hope he gets a positive response to his very helpful suggestion on the gathering of data. I also thank all the other hon. Members for their contributions today, and I will go through some of the highlights of those.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) spoke about the need for a cancer recovery plan, which I think we all agree on, and addressed the important point about widening health inequalities and the startling differences in the availability of screening depending on where people live. I agree with her that improvements to the cancer outcomes datasets are an important part of beginning to understand how those disparities work out.

We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame Morris); I pay tribute to the work he does on the all-party parliamentary groups in this area. He mentioned the Catch Up With Cancer campaign and drew attention to the backlog, which, of course, many hon. Members have raised today. He also raised the availability of radiotherapy, which, in his own words, he bangs the drum on consistently in this place, and we pay tribute to his persistence.

The hon. Member for High Peak (Robert Largan) made an important point about the availability of mobile screening units and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) , who always speaks with such knowledge on this subject, made some important points about clinical trials and charities, which I hope to be able to return to if time allows.

It was a pleasure to see the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) find his spiritual home at last; it is the equivalent of Gary Neville turning out to play for Liverpool, but he is welcome all the same. We have a vacancy in the shadow health team for a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the moment and, if he shows the promise that he demonstrated in his speech today, I think we may be able to find a role for him on this side of the House.

The hon. Gentleman made, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) did, an important point about some of the people who are not here today, including the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), who we heard this morning in business questions speaking about her frustration at not being able to participate in this debate. I am sure it would have been enhanced by her presence, given her current battle, alongside the former Member—still our friend—for Dewsbury, Paula Sherriff. I am sure the whole House sends both of them our very best wishes.

I want to speak about the impact the pandemic has had on the early diagnosis of cancer in general, as many Members have referred to already. We know how important early diagnosis is to improving chances of survival and in successful treatment. As we heard, Cancer Research UK estimates around 3 million people are waiting for breast, bowel or cervical screening, and there were over 1.2 million patients waiting for a key diagnostic test by the end of August this year. As my hon. Friend the Member for Easington mentioned, we know from Macmillan’s latest report that there are currently around 50,000 missing diagnoses; that compares to a similar timeframe for this time last year, and means 50,000 fewer people have potentially not been diagnosed with cancer.

We know significant amounts of capacity had to be created during this pandemic, and that meant the cancelling of planned operations, large numbers of patients being discharged back into the community, and staff and patients having to be protected from the transmission of covid-19. What those changes also meant is that, thankfully, intensive care did not have to be rationed so that only covid-19 patients were treated. However, it also caused the shutdown or reduction in many other non-covid services, which, combined with drastic changes in patient behaviour, has led to us facing this huge backlog today. We know that stricter infection control measures—which are absolutely necessary—mean that the backlog of care will probably take much longer to clear than we would like.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood and other hon. Members referred to the Breast Cancer Now report, and how the number of people referred to see a specialist declined dramatically from April. There is an estimate that across the UK, there have been 107,000 fewer breast cancer referrals, and a backlog of almost 1 million women requiring screening has built up during this time. Some of those women may well have been living with undetected breast cancer, and some may still be. Every month that that situation continues, more women could be missing out on the best chance of getting an early diagnosis and the best chance of beating the disease. It is vital—and something that we have been pushing for for a long time—that we get a clear sense of how we are going to tackle that backlog, because it is so important.

The hon. Members for Wakefield (Imran Ahmad Khan) and for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan) mentioned the importance of mammograms. As we know, they are a key tool in early detection. There is a plan to send open invitations for screening from September to March of next year. That has caused some concern among cancer charities, because some of the research shows that the number of women who make appointments is significantly lower than those who actually attend timed appointments. There is a fear, sadly, that this could actually worsen the persistent decline we have seen in recent years of the uptake of breast cancer screening. We are particularly concerned about the impact that will have on some groups where uptake is already low, such as those living in deprived communities and some BAME groups. We heard a little bit about the impact on BAME groups from my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood, and both she and the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) very powerfully put into words the additional mental toll that this disease has during this time, on top of everything else that people ordinarily face when they have received such a diagnosis.

Several hon. Members mentioned the impact of covid-19 on secondary breast cancer patients. It is still, sadly, the case that around 11,500 people—women, mainly—die from breast cancer each year. Most of those are to do with secondary breast cancer, and as we have heard, it is not something that there is a cure for at the moment. It is estimated that around 35,000 people in the UK are living with secondary breast cancer. As the general population ages and people live longer, numbers will continue to increase, so it is really important that we get a better understanding and response to secondary breast cancer. We also need to look at this issue from the patient’s perspective.

I want to mention my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), who wanted to speak in today’s debate but could not. She wanted to pay tribute to one of her constituents, Jo Taylor, and to METUP UK, which focuses on making positive changes for everyone with metastatic breast cancer. Its “busy living with mets” campaign calls for increased awareness of secondary breast cancer, because catching it earlier leads to better outcomes. It is also campaigning for better access to drugs, clinical trials, radiotherapies and surgical pathways.

As the hon. Member for North Warwickshire mentioned in his opening comments, the national cancer patient experience survey tells us that the experiences of patients with secondary cancer differ greatly. It has identified gaps through the taskforce in the support and services offered to people, including variation in access to clinical nurse specialists, patchy provision of information, patients’ psycho-social needs not being met, and a lack of prompt and timely access to palliative care services.

As we have heard from several hon. Members, clinical nurse specialists play a critical role in co-ordinating care, providing information and helping people to manage their diagnosis and treatment better. In fact, Breast Cancer Now reports that the support of a clinical nurse specialist is the single most important contributing factor to people’s positive experience of care. That is particularly important for secondary cancer patients, who are often on lifelong treatments and have complex needs as a result. Its importance was acknowledged in the long-term plan, with a commitment that by 2021—it is only six weeks away now—all patients, including those with secondary cancers, will have access to a clinical nurse specialist or support worker.

It is very important that we get to a point where everyone is able to take advantage of the expertise that a clinical nurse specialist provides. Prior to the pandemic, the workforce was already overstretched and under pressure due to increased demand and persistent shortages across the workforce. A report by the Public Accounts Committee was highly critical of the Government’s approach to the workforce, finding that the long-term plan was not supported by a detailed workforce plan. Of course, the removal of the NHS bursary in 2017

“signally failed to achieve its ambition to increase student nursing numbers.”

Before I conclude, I want to echo what the hon. Member for Strangford said about the importance of charities in this sector. We know there is a great deal of concern in the sector. I know that some support was announced by the Government back in April, but it falls well short of what was suggested by the associations involved, and only a few have been able to benefit from it. I hope the Government will listen to the sector and look again at what additional financial support can be provided, because we know that clinical trials provide a vital opportunity for patients to access new treatments, which are always in development. We know it is particularly important for patients with secondary breast cancer. We hope that is something the Minister can take on board today, and I look forward to hearing her response.

Covid-19

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Wednesday 11th November 2020

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Liam Fox Portrait Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Nov 2020, 5:30 p.m.

I pay tribute to all those in my own constituency who have helped our community through the pandemic—the medical and emergency staff, other key workers, our volunteers, and the neighbours who have made all the difference.

I want to say a few words about how we can ensure that public confidence in our policy remains high, but first I will make a few comments on the current lockdown. I reinforce my hon. Friend the Minister’s point that when we leave the national lockdown on 2 December, we are not going into a national free-for-all in the run-up to Christmas. Ministers must make it very clear that we are transitioning back to a regional tiered system, because over-optimism, just as if people believe that a vaccine coming means they do not have to obey the rules, would be very dangerous for public health.

But if we are going to move successfully back to the tiered system, we have to deal with some of the illogical rules that still exist despite the best efforts of Ministers. This is not frivolous—it is important in getting people to conform to the restrictions that are in place. For example, we want people to play sport, so do we really believe that a spaced round of golf is more dangerous to public health than people attending a supermarket? When it comes to religious observation, is it credible that people who go to church for private worship who are properly spaced are a greater danger than the same number with the same spacing who take part in a service? These issues are important to a lot of people out there. The Government need to deal with some of these illogicalities if we are to deal with conformity.

There is something that Ministers can do immediately, and that is about free testing for families of key workers. I have a constituent who is a key worker who has been sent home because her son has also been sent home from school to isolate. She cannot go back to work until her son has a negative test, but he does not qualify for free testing. In other words, she must pay to get her son tested before she can go back to a key occupation. That cannot be the right way to treat our key workers. I urge the Minister to look as quickly as possible at how we deal with these key members of our society.

May I ask the Minister to look again, through the Treasury, at those who were remunerated through dividends? Many of those people are hard-working and decent, not tax dodgers. They were able to get by for a short period of time, but as the lockdown goes on, it is becoming impossible for them and they are facing absolute undue hardship. I urge the Government to look again at them.

My main comments relate to our great maxim in medicine—do no harm. That means that the patient must not be worse off from the cure than they were from the original disease. This is a dilemma facing all Governments. How do we protect public health while ensuring the economic viability by which the funding for public services is generated? So far, the public remain very supportive of the Government’s position, but that cannot be guaranteed. Recent controversies over the use of data have made it more difficult for the Government simply to say that they are following the science. Sadly, there is growing resistance to the concept of lockdowns, which is inevitable as economic concerns rise to the fore. It is utterly irrational to say that one is against all lockdowns, because that needs to be a decision taken on the basis of the evidence at the time. However, we need to understand the anxieties and the frustrations if the Government want to keep their options open and retain credibility with the public.

So how can Parliament play its part in that process? Covid-19 is not just a health issue; it is also an economic issue, affecting welfare and employment and our personal and social wellbeing. And of course there is no such thing, actually, as “the science”; rather, there is a range of scientific views, and we need to understand what that range is and the weight given to the respective parts of it if we are to have faith in the outcome of the judgments that have been made.

Our current Select Committees are very good at looking at departmental functions and policy, but they are very vertical and do not look across the whole of Government. In 2012, after the banking scandal, David Cameron set up the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards; it was a full parliamentary Committee of inquiry involving both Houses. I believe we need the same now: senior but temporary, cross-party and with both Houses. Of course, the reaction from the Front Bench is likely to be, “No more scrutiny”—I have been there and done that; I have been on the Front Bench and know what all those arguments are—but I think it would be a mistake and something the Government would come to regret, because such a Commission would help show that across the whole of Government, advice and data had been properly scrutinised. It is an opportunity to reinforce public confidence as we face the covid pandemic into 2021.

Finally, there is another reason why we should have such a set-up. This will not be the last pandemic we face. In the era of globalisation, when in normal times, for example, we have 700,000 people in the air at any one time, we will face further pandemics, and although this has been a tragedy for every single case, it has not been a particularly lethal pandemic by historical standards. We must set up the structures that we will need to deal with future pandemics, and we need internationally to work out the protocols we will put in place when we have the emergence of new viruses and the metrics we will use to measure that, because we cannot have the disorganised and shambolic international response that we have had to this particular pandemic. Meanwhile, at home we need transparency, with all the evidence scrutinised, if we are to maintain public confidence and see off the political opportunists and the conspiracy theorists, and, with that transparency, we need that scrutiny in this House and we need it urgently.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
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Despite its dreadful impact, the coronavirus pandemic has brought out the very best in people, from Captain Sir Tom Moore’s inspiring fundraising efforts to volunteers in communities across my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency who have mobilised to ensure that the vulnerable among them receive food and medicine as they shield from this deadly virus. I would like to pay tribute to some of them today: Fife Voluntary Action, Benarty emergency response team and the many “Scotland Loves Local” high street heroes award winners to name but a few. But of course I would also add my thanks to all the key workers who kept us all going throughout lockdown.

The pandemic has also, however, laid bare the opportunism of some: a profiteering cronyism that runs through the heart of this Westminster Government—what Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism”. In her award-winning book “The Shock Doctrine”, Klein presents a convincing narrative of a political strategy that exploits large-scale crises, such as this pandemic, to push through neo-liberal policy that systematically deepens inequality while simultaneously enriching the already wealthy with connections to those in power.

In the crisis we face today, ordinary people are focused on the daily challenge of survival, yet in parallel we have repeatedly witnessed new private companies springing up to profit directly, greatly assisted in those efforts by a political class prepared to make strenuous efforts to line the pockets of many with close links to the party of government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) incisively said of this phenomenon, people across these islands are in the grip of a cronyvirus at the heart of this Government that may be every bit as deadly as the coronavirus

Laura Trott Portrait Laura Trott (Sevenoaks) (Con)
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Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the private sector has played a role in helping tackle the virus, and specifically that Pfizer, as a private company, has only got the money to invest because of its profit and share nature?

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey
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11 Nov 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I do not dispute the role of private companies in meeting the challenge of the coronavirus. I will go on to discuss the transparency and the appropriateness of how contracts have been awarded by this Government during the pandemic.

We only have to look at the PPE fiasco to see how this has been brazenly put into action, with large contracts awarded to small firms with little to no experience in the relevant field but with numerous links to the Conservative party. How on earth did the Government find them? In what amounts to a covid bonanza for these tiny companies, Government contracts worth more than £10 billion have been awarded in this way since March. Under the cover of the pandemic, the standard rules have been put aside, enabling contracts to be issued in extreme urgency with little to no oversight; I refer to the comments made by the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) about scrutiny.

With the emergence of promising vaccine candidates, we collectively hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, the darkness of our journey through this pandemic must not be allowed to obscure our important public duty to act in good faith and with financial probity. We simply cannot emerge from this experience with the dismissive “at any cost” excuse deployed from the top of this Government down. We must ensure that the burden is shared equally together.

Enormous amounts of public money have been dished out in the absence of any tendering process, value for money assessment or assessment of whether any of these companies have relevant experience. We have all heard stories of UK businesses with expertise whose offers of help went unanswered by this Government. Why? On PPE, £108 million went to a tiny pest control company with net assets of £18,000. Another £108 million went to a modestly sized confectioner in Northern Ireland, while a third contract worth £252 million was awarded to an opaque private fund owned through a tax haven. The more that Members and external interested parties scratch the surface of this Government’s contract profligacy, the more serious are the questions that arise.

It is not just PPE. Under the fast-track rules, private firms have been handed a total of 843 direct contracts, including those that administer covid-19 tests and provide food parcels and medical supplies. Then, of course, there is the disastrous £12 billion test and trace failure, led by Conservative peer Baroness Harding. In yesterday’s joint Select Committee hearing, a possible reason for that was revealed. In July, the CMO claimed in a Select Committee that the ability to ramp up testing was “significantly strained”. Yesterday, Professor Sir Chris Ham gave evidence that increasing capacity over the crucial summer months was too slow, yet Baroness Harding claimed that testing capacity was increasing throughout the summer. What is the truth of the matter? Unfortunately, that was not the only incongruity, as Baroness Harding did not show a clear command of her brief, failing to answer or, in some cases, understand what was being asked.

The global pandemic is an absolute disaster for so many, with an unimaginable loss of life, yet the brightest and best of humanity have been working tirelessly on effective treatments and a vaccine. Rightly or wrongly, the appointment of Kate Bingham has proven controversial. There are no doubt questions to be asked about the absence of any clear recruitment process, but when she appeared before the Health and Social Care Committee recently, she was impressive. She was clearly on top of and in command of her brief.

However, that does not vacate the responsibility of this Government and any appointees to act ethically and in good faith and, most importantly, to account transparently for their actions. There are concerns about Kate Bingham’s astronomical public relations bill and claims that she shared sensitive information with investors. Further concerns emerged in The Guardian yesterday—in simple terms, how can a job be considered unpaid when the postholder has a position of influence or control in the process of awarding a £49 million investment in a company in which they remain a managing partner and from which they will surely benefit? Whatever the Prime Minister’s bluster, these matters must be fully scrutinised.

Sad as the pandemic is, what saddens the most is that these conditions are seen by some as an opportunity for Governments and corporate interests to implement political agendas that would otherwise be met with great resistance and opposition. The Government are on notice that, despite the disorientation of the public health crisis we are living through, these matters are being pursued.

This chain of events is not unique to the current crisis; it is a blueprint that neo-liberal politicians and Governments have been following for decades. Many thought that the meltdown of the global financial system in 2008 would prompt a comprehensive rethink of the principles underlying global capitalism, but in reality it was exploited to implement austerity and defund public services and social welfare provision on a grand scale. Covid illustrated that no more keenly than in respect of social care.

The 2018 report on social care from the other place pointed to a gap in service for 1.4 million people. This year, the Independent Care Group suggested that 1.5 million people are already living without the care that they need. The number keeps growing. One and a half million vulnerable and elderly people throughout England—husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters; each and every one deserves much better from their Government. The Government are presiding over a social care system that is close to collapse.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the national health service, told the BBC that the covid-19 crisis had shone “a very harsh spotlight” on the “resilience” of the care system. The truth is that it comes down to priorities and political choices. To reform social care to pre-austerity levels will now cost more than £14 billion. That is a large sum, but it is £9 billion less than the bank bail-outs of 2007-08, which cost the public purse £23 billion overall. The annual operating costs of Trident nuclear weapons come in at £2 billion—far short of the £14 billion we need to repair the economic vandalism of austerity but, according to the costs worked out by Skills for Care, enough to recruit and train almost 550,000 new social careworkers every single year.

According to Age UK, 167,000 older people and their families throughout England now have to fund their own care because of the means test for free or subsidised support. Older people who are obliged to buy their own care have spent more than £7 billion in the 12 months since the Prime Minister took office and promised to fix social care. Every single day in England, 14 people exhaust their assets paying for care.

The reality is that the social care system that entered the pandemic was underfunded, understaffed, undervalued and at risk of collapse. Any response to covid-19, however fast or comprehensive, would have needed to contend with this legacy of political neglect. Government policies to support social care have faced major and widespread problems, not least the PPE crisis, which has led to a lack of protection for some people using and providing adult social care. Local authorities report that additional Government funding has been insufficient to cover the additional costs.

As has become all too clear throughout the recent crisis in England, protecting social care has been given far too low a priority. When the Minister for Care appeared before front of the Health and Social Care Committee last month, despite admitting that

“the social care system needs fixing”

and making a commitment to do so, she was unwilling to give any date for when the disinvestment of austerity would be rectified. If not now, when?

The UK Government do not even need to look far for inspiration: although challenges remain, they could learn much from Scotland’s approach. The story north and south of the border is very different, as is evident in our approaches to social care post covid. The Scottish Government have established an independent review to look at the creation of a national care service for all. As the Nuffield Trust points out, Scotland’s reforms are

“the most advanced of the countries…having set out an ambitious and comprehensive vision for a social care service.”

Because free personal care has been in place in Scotland since 2002, two thirds of those receiving social care support in Scotland do so in their own homes.

A further lesson from Scotland is the introduction of Frank’s law in April 2019. Under this legislation, free personal care was extended to all adults. Despite all these significant advances being made in Scotland, the system continues to struggle because we are part of the UK. Let us take funding, for example. The simple truth is that, without independence, we are limited in our funding options. Hoping for Barnett consequentials anytime soon seems unlikely, given the UK Government’s timidity towards social care reform in England. Then there is Brexit. While the Government celebrate the end of freedom of movement, the loss of its opportunities is lamented in Scotland. The Migration Advisory Committee is entirely right that this poses a stark risk for social care, given that the services are dependent on EU nationals. UK policy delivers to Scotland a triple threat: a lack of reform to tackle the many pre-existing issues; the Government’s irrational and ideological approach to the EU; and an immigration policy that refuses to acknowledge, never mind accommodate, the specific needs of Scotland.

I had a fleeting hope in March that covid would raise this Government’s eyes to injustice and the value of those in healthcare. I felt sure that honouring all the heroes in our NHS and care sector would naturally follow, but no. With the weekly clapping now a distant memory, many do not feel valued or do not feel that their efforts are properly recognised. Campaigners are calling on Ministers to boost nurses’ pay without delay. The Scottish Government are currently delivering the highest pay award in the UK for NHS Agenda for Change staff of at least 9% over the three years from 2019. They also gave an immediate 3.3% pay rise to social care workers and have just announced £50 million for the social care staff support fund for those who contract covid-19.

This Government sprang into action to approve countless contracts for their wealthy friends at the start of the pandemic, but that sense of urgency is sadly lacking when it comes to taking action on nurses’ pay or addressing the poverty of carers. The Prime Minister demonstrated yet again today that his ears are made of cloth. He ignores repeated calls for the £20 uplift to universal credit to be made permanent and extended to legacy benefits, which is backed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save the Children, and he defended his Government’s refusal to feed children in poverty during the summer holidays, yet brags about Marcus Rashford’s campaign this winter. It was support grudgingly given through shame.

We are seeing a return to the lack of compassion of the 1980s, but what we are witnessing now casts minds back further still, not just to the Thatcher years but to Dickensian Britain where great wealth and extreme poverty existed cheek by jowl, conjuring images of barefoot children with empty bowls and a population without access to medical or social care. This is the stark reality of Tory Britain: poverty, a pay-to-access suboptimal social care system, an assault on employment and working conditions, and the exclusion of the self-employed. Coronavirus must not be allowed to cover for the crony virus at the heart of this Government. Some say that Scotland gets too generous a settlement, but that is a false narrative. These policies exist in Scotland because—

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. This debate is about covid-19, the pandemic in our constituencies right now, but the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey) is taking us back into the 1980s. Is that as it should be?

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not responsible for the hon. Gentleman’s speech, but I know that he will be conscious of the number of people who wish to contribute to this debate. I know him to be a fair man and we are coming now to exactly the same timings of the other Front-Bench contributions, so if he could come to a conclusion, that would be really useful.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey
- Hansard - -

11 Nov 2020, 12:01 a.m.

It may not be the perception of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) that this is important to covid, but it is in Scotland and I am speaking to the people in Scotland.

The policies that exist to support us exist in Scotland because people vote for parties that campaign for these political choices. Prior to the 2014 referendum, Business for Scotland analysis revealed that, in each of the 30 previous years, Scotland generated more tax revenue per head for the UK Treasury than the rest of the UK. The subsidy myth was well and truly busted. The Prime Minister or Conservative Members talk of the generous handout from this Government, but it is not a handout; it is our money. It is our money that they are giving back to us. Scotland’s economy, when benchmarked against similar-sized independent nations that, quite frankly, would love to have Scotland’s economic advantages and natural resources, illustrates vividly the dreadful impact of Westminster’s continued economic mismanagement.

In closing—[Hon. Members: “Hurrah!”] Conservative Members might not like it. Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris recently referenced the following quote:

“Democracy is not a state. It is an act”.

To those aspiring for statehood in Scotland, I say this: it is time for democracy and it is time to act like a state.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is now a five-minute limit.

Covid-19 Vaccine

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Tuesday 10th November 2020

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department of Health and Social Care
John Howell Portrait John Howell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Nov 2020, 12:04 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. The World Health Organisation’s group of experts has already provided recommendations to countries about which populations should be prioritised. They include frontline health and care workers at high risk of infection, older adults and those at high risk throughout the population—people who are suffering from conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. As the second phase rolls forward and more doses are produced, the vaccine should go to groups at less risk of being infected or suffering badly.

I will finish there. This is an exciting opportunity, which we should not let go of. We should keep on top of this. Let us all hope that maybe in a few months’ time we can all be here celebrating the distribution of at least one—and perhaps more than one—vaccine that will help us out of this situation.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

10 Nov 2020, 5:06 p.m.

I thank the hon. Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin) for securing this important and highly relevant debate. It is understandable that we may share a feeling of cautious optimism with the news that the candidate vaccines are showing not only promise but a high degree of efficacy based on the phase 1 and 2 data. I pay tribute to the scientists who have led this encouraging development, and I wish them every success as they move to take the vaccine through the necessary steps to ensure that it is clinically safe and as we begin to prepare for widespread deployment.

Those steps and others, such as continuing to manage the current outbreak through test, trace and isolate methods and protecting our frontline staff with the necessary personal protective equipment, are absolutely vital if we are to rebuild each nation’s economy and return to as normal a way of life as possible. While I may have some sympathy with those who desire less rigorous controls on our freedoms, the economy and clinical trials, the consequences of relaxing too soon are clear to see given the second wave we are living through and a second nationwide lockdown in England. While some have argued that that is a risk worth taking to protect the economy, the consequences will ultimately be further damage to that which they argue they are trying to protect.

That is, similarly, the situation regarding drug licensing, and I want to pick up on some of the points the hon. Member for North Herefordshire referred to. The desire to suspend usual licensing rules would have consequences. They have been developed for important reasons, and those consequences matter. Just as with the caution over announcing a lockdown, I would urge caution over taking any liberties with the phasing of clinical trials. That phasing really matters. It is exactly what is required, particularly if we want to give a clear, confident message to the population that any vaccine has been tested to ensure it is safe.

I would pick up on one example. This vaccine uses an angiotensin-converting enzyme II molecule as its entry receptor, and in situ and in vitro it has been demonstrated to have had a paradoxical effect, so it is not well understood. It has a key role to play in blood pressure and other cardiac regulation, so it is important that we pay attention to the short-term and particularly the late effects of any such treatment.

I also urge caution over the temptation to rush forward, in that we have serious issues to consider ahead of the deployment of any vaccine in a meaningful way across the nations of the UK.

Bill Wiggin Portrait Bill Wiggin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hoped I had been clearer that I was not calling for a curtailment of any of the safety steps. However, with eight people dying every hour, delay has consequences too. What is not acceptable is that the standards for safety in the UK may be slightly different from the standards around the rest of the world. I was asking for a coming together so that we can have that agreed consensus on safety.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey
- Hansard - -

10 Nov 2020, 5:10 p.m.

I thank the hon. Member for that helpful clarification. I certainly hope that there would be a concordance of agreement to ensure not only that similar standards are followed, but that research can be worked on across all countries that have the capacity to do so.

I will make some progress. In our collective hope that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel, the darkness of our shared journey through this pandemic must not be allowed to obscure our important public duty to act in good faith and with financial probity. That responsibility is not only of value in and of itself; we must do that out of respect for the many who did not make it through and who succumbed to covid-19, and in memory of those key workers who did so for the most selfless of reasons.

I want to refer to comments made by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). I agree with him that this has been a long, dark six months; it has been incredibly difficult. There is a need to feel optimistic, but it almost feels too good to be true. We hope that we will see this through, but again, I urge patience so that we can move forward collectively.

We must not emerge from this dark period with an “at any cost” attitude. We must ensure that the burden was shared equally and we acted together. In the spirit of co-operation alluded to by the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell), during Prime Minister’s questions on 18 March I asked a question about scientific support and I concluded:

“Does he agree that the prize on this occasion must be the victory and not patents and profits?”

In response the Prime Minister stated:

“I endorse completely the sentiment that the hon. Gentleman has just expressed about the need to do this collectively.”

And he concluded that

“everybody is working together on the very issues that the hon. Gentleman raised.”—[Official Report, 18 March 2020; Vol. 673, c. 1001.]

With regard to the spirit of togetherness, it is deeply concerning that we repeatedly hear of cronyism at the heart of this Government, particularly in relation to their less than rigorous approach to appointments and procurement. This morning on the BBC’s “Today” programme, the Secretary of State was challenged about the costs surrounding the vaccine taskforce’s work and its processes. Rightly or wrongly, the appointment of Kate Bingham has proven controversial, and there are no doubt questions to be asked about the absence of any clear recruitment process. However, when she appeared before the Health and Social Care Committee last week, I was very impressed by her performance. She has a very real command of the work that she has been leading, and the relevance and depth of her skillset were clearly in tune with the demands of such a position. However, that does not negate the Government’s or, indeed, any appointee’s responsibility to act ethically and in good faith and, most importantly, to transparently account for their actions.

Concerns about passing on company names that the Government favoured in the pursuit of a vaccine is not a matter for me to pass any judgment on, but they do need to be scrutinised fully. The most recent concerns, set out in The Guardian this morning, are also significant. In simple terms, how can a job be considered unpaid when the postholder holds a position of influence or control in the process of awarding a £49 million investment in a company that they remain a managing partner of? That Ms Bingham is married to a Treasury Minister should have set off the ethical alarm bells well in advance of the matter appearing in the media.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd (in the Chair)
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10 Nov 2020, 5:13 p.m.

Order. Mr Hanvey, can you wind up your remarks, please?

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey
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10 Nov 2020, 5:13 p.m.

I am just about to finish, Mr Dowd; sorry.

Whether the sign-off of the £49 million award came from Nick Elliott or, as the Secretary of State claimed this morning, some civil servant, this matters. These allegations of cronyism, if investigated and found to be true, are sure to make the expenses scandal, the cash-for-honours scandal or the cash-for-influence scandal seem like child’s play. This is a day for cautious optimism indeed, but not at any price.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Nov 2020, 5:14 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship for the first time, Mr Dowd. I am grateful to the hon. Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin) for initiating today’s debate on this topic. Timing is everything in politics, and his is clearly spot-on. Similarly, a rare political skill is the ability to make the complex comprehendible, and he really did that in his setting out of the debate. I do not know who is watching, but I did plug this debate when I was on Sky News at lunchtime, so I hope a few people are, because that was the best explanation that I have heard, and certainly the best one that can be distilled into about 15 minutes, of just how rigorous the process is. I hope people will take from that explanation the reassurance that although we are keen for the vaccine to succeed, there is a rigorous process. It has not been retrofitted to fit the vaccination’s journey, so we should have some confidence in that.

To reflect on the two Back-Bench contributions, when the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) referred to it being bit of good news, = he was speaking for all of us. He mentioned the groups that will be prioritised, and I think there will be a high level of consensus on that. Hopefully, it is something that we will settle on very quickly. I was cheered by the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell), who talked about the Council of Europe and the World Health Organisation, because those are exactly the sorts of fora that we need to engage with to get an equitable distribution around the world. It is hard for all of us; this is why political consensus is so important. It is hard for us to tell our constituents why we feel there needs to be a global distribution when people are so desperate to get their lives back to normal, but we know there is both a moral and a pragmatic obligation to do that. The organisations that the hon. Gentleman talked about are exactly the places for those conversations.

On the politics of this, it is really important that we do not mess around or be mischievous with the idea of the vaccine. There is a big public conversation about this. Any look of doubt from us would be magnified significantly. As community leaders, we have a responsibility to say that we trust the process. The outcome is whatever the outcome is, but the process itself is a proper one that we trust. That is certainly what hon. Members will see from the Opposition.

Yesterday’s news on the progress and the efficacy of the vaccine will have cheered all of us. I know that the Government are on record with regard to doses from that particular provider, but when we add in the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford one and the Moderna one, might the Minister be able to tell us how many pre-orders have been put in place for the vaccinations? That would help us to gauge the scale. I know the Government have laid the pitch for the roll-out through the changes to the human medicines regulations, and significant changes were made, including giving the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency the powers to grant temporary authorisation pending the granting of a licence.

I was grateful for the time that the Minister gave me with her and the deputy chief medical officer to talk about those changes, but when will there be a parliamentary opportunity to do so? We need to demonstrate that we have scrutinised this properly because the public want to know that we are talking about these things to the fullest extent. That would also allow us to address the point about immunity from civil liberty that the manufacturers and healthcare professionals are seeking, which is not surprising, but there are important and significant qualifiers around that not extending to sufficiently serious breaches. Will the Minister explain what a sufficiently serious breach would look like, or when we might have an occasion to talk about that further?

On vaccine hesitancy, it seems there are distinct phases. We have the anti-vax movement, which is about the substance of vaccinations to an extent, but it also about a broad range of other things. As our constituency mailbags will reflect, there is also a group of people who are hesitant, which is entirely understandable. They want to know that any vaccination, whichever one it is, is a safe one, but it is telling that last year the WHO had vaccine hesitancy in its top 10 threats to global health—up there with a future pandemic. That is something that we need to be aware of. We know that such speculation and the stuff that moves online at an incredible pace can really damage the process. For example, in Denmark in 2013 there were false claims from a documentary about the HPV vaccine, which led to a decline in uptake among some of the cohorts from levels of around 90%. Similarly, between 2014 and 2017 in Ireland, vocal attacks on the HPV vaccine from the anti-vaccine lobby led to a drop in take-up from 70% to 50%. These things matter. One thing that best counters them is proactive, positive health promotion campaigns. I am keen to hear whether the Government plan to talk about these things to educate the population ahead of time, but, again, it something that we all need to buy into, share and push out on a cross-party basis.

An area where I think there might be a little more room for divergence is delivery. We do not know what the future holds for the vaccine or when things will pop up, but it is reasonable to say that we expect one, and we know the scale of our population, so we have no reason not to have significant plans. When the Health Secretary was pushed on it this afternoon, he said that there were plans, but he was less forthcoming on what they were. I am keen for more detail. Whether it was PPE at the early stage of the pandemic or test and trace, frankly, throughout it, such big-scale planning and logistical exercises have not gone flawlessly. Qualifications could be made when they were being done for the first time, but we cannot repeat those mistakes now that we are, I hope, learning from what has happened.

Again, the Health Secretary has talked quite a bit today in the media and the Chamber about the importance of general practice. As I understand it, the BMA’s GP committee, NHS Improvement and NHS England have agreed an enhanced service for general practice to lead this process. That is good. People will want to see this delivered through the NHS rather than a private company, whether because they believe in its efficiency, as I certainly do, or whether in general they think that will reflect best in the population. That is a wise thing to do.

I understand that it is optional for practices to sign up, so may I get more detail from the Minister on that? If take-up is not good enough, will an alteration be considered? I also want to understand what assessment has been made about GPs’ capacity and workload. As I understand it, the programme requires participants to deliver at least 975 vaccinations over a seven-day period from each designated site—that will require 12-hour days seven days a week, including bank holidays. GPs are already busy, so I am keen to know about what assessments have been made about prioritisation.

I do not have enough time to talk about this properly, but I turn finally to the point made clearly by the hon. Members for Henley and for North Herefordshire: we have to come to an equitable settlement globally, too, and to play a leading role in global organisations as we do so.

Covid-19

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Thursday 22nd October 2020

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department of Health and Social Care
Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Spencer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, and I will come to precisely that point in due course.

I supported the first lockdown, and I support the current restrictions, but we need a way out that works, irrespective of the invention of a vaccine. We need a way out that supports people to take their own decisions and respects free choice but, as the hon. Gentleman said, we must also protect society from an infectious disease. Such a system needs to be sustained for a long time, and those measures will need to be in place for a long time.

It is easy to criticise, but it is more difficult to put forward other options. We therefore need a debate about what a plan B could look like. We started with a national lockdown, but that was too blunt. We rightly moved to targeted measures, which are better, but still not great. The geographical area is too large, and people do not live their lives by local authority boundaries. The next logical step is to shrink the geography further—to the household or individual—and to have a system that allows people to make decisions for themselves regarding their own risks and the people they come across socially or at work.

We must use our testing capabilities in a targeted, risk-based manner, so that those at high risk, should they choose to, can shield and have support to do that. Those at low risk would be able to live their lives more freely, should they choose to do so. At the same time, we must ensure that things do not spiral out of control, with broader measures and restrictions available in reserve if needed. We must invest in our NHS surge capacity, and carry out research into vaccines and treatments.

The challenge, of course, is how we support those at medium risk, or those who live or work with high-risk individuals, and we need to have that debate. Lockdowns are not a cure for covid. They only regulate the pressure on the health service and, important as that is, in time they can, and will, be worse than the disease itself. We need to have that difficult debate and there is no easy solution. While I suggest that we wait for the phase 3 trials of vaccines, which come out imminently, we must start putting flesh on the bones of a plan B, based on individual choice, and consider a pilot in the UK. To get through this pandemic, whatever we do will be difficult. Difficult decisions have to be made, and more difficult decisions remain to be made.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

22 Oct 2020, 3:44 p.m.

In his statement earlier today, the Chancellor claimed to be targeting support where it is most needed, but one early and obvious lesson from the covid pandemic was the disinvestment and chronic underfunding of social care, which led to a system that was ill-prepared for that pandemic. The 2018 report into social care from the other place, led by Lord Forsyth, found that the social care system needed around £8 billion, just to return quality and access to the sub-optimal levels of 2009-10. According to Age UK, councils now say that they need an additional £6 billion on top of that to meet the extra costs of covid-19. Therefore, a minimum investment of £14 billion is urgently required to return social care in England to a pre-austerity position.

The social care system entered the pandemic underfunded, understaffed, undervalued, and at risk of collapse. Any response to covid-19, however vast or comprehensive, would have needed to contend with that legacy of political neglect. It is telling of this Government’s approach to social care that a recent Health Foundation report found evidence that

“the government acted too slowly and did not do enough to support social care users and staff”.

As has become all too clear throughout the recent crisis, in England protecting social care has been given far more priority than the NHS. As we have all witnessed, the Government’s handling of the covid crisis has left much to be desired, as we have seen with most clarity in the major and widespread problems that have been experienced in social care in England. In the most extreme cases, councils are now meeting a person’s needs only if not doing so would breach their human rights.

The right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt) is on the record as claiming that he wanted to produce a 10-year plan for social care to match the one drawn up for the NHS two years ago, but that that was blocked by the Treasury. He said:

“The political pressure is never as great for social care funding but the reality is additional NHS funding will be wasted if we don’t sort out social care.”

He is right: the crisis in social care cannot be ignored. Just as the numbers of people going without care will continue to rise, in particular with respect to long covid sufferers, so will the pressure on the NHS and the public purse. We are a year on from the statement on the steps of No. 10 in which the Prime Minister claimed that he would “fix” social care, but like so many of the Prime Minister’s promises, that claim was without substance.

When the Minister for Care appeared before the Health and Social Care Committee last week, I asked why the Government’s professed dedication to the reform of social care was not reflected in policy. I received a terse response:

“Clearly, the Department has been dealing with a pandemic.”

But that is precisely why reform must push ahead. I echoed the words of the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Ed Davey):

“The Covid crisis makes the need to fix social care more urgent, not less.”

Despite all that, the Minister was completely unable to provide any response beyond a vague, non-committal commitment. If that is a measure of the Government’s commitment to target support where it is most needed, they have failed to learn the most vital lesson of the pandemic.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

22 Oct 2020, 3:45 p.m.

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 29 September to raise concerns that in Bolton borough 20,000 fewer people than last year have had a referral from a GP to hospital. Serious treatments have not been taken up as a result. This is serious—it is life and death—for my constituents, and I think it is replicated around the country.

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?

Covid-19 Update

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Monday 21st September 2020

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

21 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

Yes, the UK Government will be providing the funding so that the devolved Administrations are able to put similar support in place. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster spoke to the First Minister of Wales over the weekend to ensure that in Wales people can get the level of support that we are introducing in England.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The Secretary of State is quite right: these are serious times, and we require serious answers, so can he answer the following? It has prioritised VIPs over the public; it has a failure rate of over 90% on testing targets; it has the highest voided tests of any lab, including 12,401 in a single day; it has Conservative MPs on the payroll, and it was found by the National Police Chiefs’ Council to have committed the most serious breach of standards by manipulating forensic tests. Why, then, was Randox Laboratories judged an appropriate company to be handed a £133 million contract to the exclusion of all others—or will the Secretary of State again resort to a churlish response, proving that the rules do not apply to this increasingly lawless Government?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I implore the hon. Gentleman to support all those who are working so hard to deliver the tests that people need. Every other question on testing is, “Can we have more tests, please?” and we hear stories about just how much these tests are needed. I think we should be there supporting the people who are doing the testing.

Covid-19 Update

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Thursday 17th September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, as an emergency doctor himself, he knows more than almost anyone in this House about the needs of emergency care, not least because he spent lockdown working on the frontline of our NHS. I know that everybody is grateful to him for that. I know that the £9 million expansion to Leighton Hospital, which he and I visited in November or December, is much needed, and I hope that it brings good benefits, but it is also critical that people listen to my hon. Friend’s wise words.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

On 21 July, during this summer’s nadir of new covid cases, I pressed the Government’s chief medical officer on the need to expand testing capacity. In that meeting of the Health and Social Care Committee, he stated that he would not consider that until there was evidence of a new surge in cases. Now we are in the grip of a second wave, with mounting chaos in testing capacity. Who should resign? The Secretary of State? The chief medical officer? Or do Ministers in this Government resign only when they refuse to break international law?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is record testing capacity, which we work across the whole UK to deliver.

Covid-19 Update

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Thursday 16th July 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Before I call Neale Hanvey let me appeal for quick questions, not statements. If the questions are quick, the Secretary of State, who is being most assiduous in answering thoroughly, will be able to give quicker answers.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP) [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

A learning culture is the hallmark of any robust patient safety strategy, and being able to own, reflect on and learn from past errors is a defining characteristic of that. Across health and social care, that tone is set by the Secretary of State, so when concerns such as those of Professor John Edmunds about the loss of life relating to the timing of lockdown are raised, it behoves him not to be dismissive but to take them seriously. How can clinical staff and the wider public have confidence in the Secretary of State’s leadership, when they can readily fact check that his assertions were wrong?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The last bit of the question was a bit broad.  Not all my assertions have been wrong, but I do learn and try to learn. Indeed, I have discussed openly some of the things that went badly and wrong judgments, as well as things that have gone well. I have referenced, for instance, the fact that when we first brought in guidance on funerals, it had the impact of too many people staying away—spouses who might have been married for 50 years. We changed that, because it was an error. Absolutely, the learning culture is important. It is important that it is set from the top, and I am happy to be open about the errors that I have made—others can be open about their errors—and learn. I also think it is important to be robust where you think you have made a decision correctly.

Covid-19: R Rate and Lockdown Measures

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Monday 8th June 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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Yes. I think the whole House will join me and my hon. Friend in thanking all carers, paid and unpaid, in this Carers Week. This Carers Week is so different from normal because of what has happened during coronavirus. One of the things we have seen during coronavirus is that people have got together to celebrate and thank our carers right across the board. He is absolutely right to raise the point that he does, and I will certainly look into it.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Ind) [V]
- Hansard - -

8 Jun 2020, 12:04 a.m.

No one wants to see the R number go above 1; hence the robust questioning the Secretary of State is facing. This weekend, the Government’s incongruous messaging continued. SAGE member John Edmunds told Andrew Marr that the decision not to lock down earlier had cost a lot of lives. Later in the show, the Secretary of State dismissed this view in the face of Channel 4’s “Dispatches” programme and the growing number of scientific experts who are warning that the Government’s premature relaxation of lockdown could see a significant second wave of infection. If the Government are no longer following the science provided by their own advisers, whose advice are they following?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has misquoted Professor Edmunds, and I think he should go and look at what was actually said.

Coronavirus Bill

(2nd reading)
Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Monday 23rd March 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Jonathan Ashworth Portrait Jonathan Ashworth
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23 Mar 2020, 12:04 a.m.

The right hon. Gentleman has shrewdly interpreted the stance I am taking. Throughout all this, given the way in which the virus has spread so rapidly, its reproduction rate and the mortality rate, I have always urged the Government to take a precautionary principle approach to every decision that they make. I have been a bit sceptical about some of the behavioural modelling that has been used. Let me give him a quick example. Before the Government banned mass gatherings, we were told by Ministers and officials—I hope that no Minister takes this is a personal criticism; I certainly do not mean it in that way—that there is no point in banning a football match with 70,000 people in the stadium, because the person with the virus is not going to infect the other 70,000 people in the stadium and that if we stop them going to the stadium to watch the match, they would all go to the pub to watch it and infect more people there. I am sure he has heard that example.

I am very proud to represent Leicester City football club, and all the football fans—or a large proportion of them—go to the stadium before the match, and go to the stadium after the match—[Hon. Members: “Pub!”] I beg your pardon, they go to the pub. They go to the pub before the match, and they go after the match—[Interruption.] Some of them do avoid the stadium, actually. I am sure that the right hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) sees the point I am making. Some of these behavioural models do not always, it would seem, reflect how humans behave. Given that, Ministers and Governments should follow a precautionary principle at all times. That is why Labour is now urging Ministers to come forward with their plans to enforce compulsory social distancing. There are different models in different countries—we have France, Spain and Italy, New Zealand, where they did it overnight, Greece, and Germany, where, other than families, they have banned more than two people from meeting outside the house—but we think that the time has come for the United Kingdom to go down this line. We would encourage the Prime Minister to come forward with plans for how he thinks that this should apply to the UK.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Ind)
- Hansard - -

23 Mar 2020, 12:06 a.m.

Behaviour is changing, and, unfortunately, some of it is unhelpful. Today, I have had probably one of the most upsetting emails that I have received throughout this time from my local foodbank, which tells me that two of the main supermarkets in the area are refusing to sell it food. The people who get that food from the foodbank have no other means of obtaining food in the midst of this crisis. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government need to speak urgently to the major supermarkets to ensure that foodbanks can secure sufficient supplies for those people who have no other option?

Jonathan Ashworth Portrait Jonathan Ashworth
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

23 Mar 2020, 12:07 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, and I totally agree that that is an absolute disgrace. I hope that the Government will look into that, because although foodbanks should not be necessary in this day and age, we know that they are vital and I hope that the Government can resolve that swiftly.

I was originally answering the point made by the right hon. Member for South West Wiltshire so long ago: we would support the Government if they came forward with such proposals, but suppressing and defeating the virus is about more than just so-called lockdowns and enforcement. We need more testing, we need more contact tracing and we need more isolation to break the chains of transmission. The World Health Organisation has famously instructed the world to test, test, test—and we agree. Labour has called for testing for the virus to be carried out in our communities on a mass scale, starting with NHS and care staff as a priority. We urge the Government rapidly to scale up testing and we thank all NHS lab staff and PHE staff who are working so hard.

For example, could the Government consider what is happening in the Republic of Ireland, where there are 35 community testing facilities in operation? They have six more planned, and the largest, in Croke Park stadium in Dublin, provides a drive-through service that tests 1,000 people a day.

--- Later in debate ---
Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

23 Mar 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I agree. I hope that the Minister might make some reference to this issue when she sums up later. We are respectfully saying to the Government: let us work together to ensure that we can offer the financial security that all our citizens need, whether we are talking about taxi drivers in Glasgow, or the people who provide bed-and-breakfast accommodation and guest houses in my constituency, whom I am asking to shut their doors. It is important that we provide the financial security that they all need.

It is impossible to overstate the scale and seriousness of this health and economic emergency. None of us has witnessed or experienced anything like this before. It is no exaggeration to say that the covid-19 threat is the biggest challenge that we have faced since the second world war. That is the frame of mind that all of us should be in. It is for that reason—the extremity of this time—that we welcome the measures in the Bill. They are the measures that we need to fight this virus. The breadth of measures contained in this legislation reflect the enormity of the challenge across these islands. They also include bespoke provisions for Scotland to reflect our different legal system. For the public looking on today, it is crucial that we explain fully the powers that are being discussed and sought, and the reasons for them. They include additional public health measures to assist with the containment or mitigation of the spread of disease.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Ind)
- Hansard - -

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

23 Mar 2020, 5:49 p.m.

Give me some time and I will. The part of the world I live in, the highlands, needs the powers in this Bill if we are to protect our population, and I know that the same goes for the constituencies of many other right hon. and hon. Members, not least the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), whom I know has been outspoken on this in the past few days.

Let me put on the record the challenge we are facing. The Highland Council landmass is 25,656 sq km, and of course that area does not include Argyll, the Northern Isles or the Western Isles. That Highland Council area makes up 32% of the landmass of Scotland and 10.5% of the UK landmass, yet we have one acute hospital, in Inverness. For many, that hospital will be more than three hours’ drive from home. Just think about that. If a hospital in an urban area has an issue with capacity, people can often be transferred to another hospital, but we do not have that opportunity in the highlands, as we have that one hospital. I am asking everyone who is thinking about coming to the highlands to think about that threat to our NHS.

I have been working with the NHS and talking to the police, and on the back of what we have been witnessed over the weekend I would like, with the forbearance of the House, to read out a press release from the chief executive of NHS Highland yesterday. It stated:

“As a community we in the Highlands, Argyll and Bute are friendly, welcoming and hospitable to the thousands of visitors we get all year every year. However, we are currently in a situation that has never been experienced before and for the first time we are making a plea for you to stay away.

We have heard that there are many people using campervans/motorhomes to make their way to the Highlands and Argyll and Bute as a way to self-isolate during this period. Please don’t.

National advice is quite clear that we, as a nation, need to stay at home, self-isolate and stop all non-essential travel. This includes using our area as a safe haven.

We have asked our communities in NHS Highland to do everything they can to stay safe. This includes self-isolating, working from home (where possible), and limiting their contact with the outside world.”

That is a very clear and a very stark message.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey
- Hansard - -

This situation is fluid and ever-changing, and I am sure everyone is receiving multiple emails about the changes in their constituencies. My right hon. Friend makes a point about the need to self-isolate. That is an essential part of any infection-control programme, and this is a public health emergency. Constituents have contacted me today to say that their employer, Amazon, is refusing to pay members of staff who have self-isolated unless they can prove that they have had a positive covid-19 test. That is forcing people to make the choice to go into work and not self-isolate. Does he agree that that is reckless behaviour on the part of Amazon?

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

23 Mar 2020, 12:05 a.m.

That is the height of irresponsibility, and Amazon and anybody else who would behave in that way needs to think again. Of course there are companies that are engaging in best practice. I have had a number of complaints from people in the highlands about those who have not been doing the right thing, but let me thank Highland Experience Tours, which has suspended all its activities and sent its drivers home. The hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) mentioned Sykes Cottages, and I have to disagree with what he said, because its behaviour has been absolutely reprehensible. Let me read to Members what Sykes Cottages sent to me on Saturday. It said, “Given concerns surrounding the current outbreak, it is understandable that people want to arrange private accommodation in more remote locations to distance themselves from larger towns and cities. The latest Government advice does not prohibit travel in the UK. We are continuing to provide a service for customers.” That is a service to customers to come from the urban areas; it is deliberately creating the circumstances whereby their customers should come to self-isolate in an area where we have limited public health capabilities. That simply is not good enough.

I am delighted to say that, under pressure, the site has now relented and is stopping new bookings in the highlands and islands over the next few weeks, but it has sent a considerable number of people up to the highlands who are there today. The site should be delivering immediate advice to all those guests that they should return home to their place of origin.

I give the same message to those with holiday homes and second homes in the highlands: “Do not come to the highlands. Do not put additional pressure on our public services. We will welcome tourists back to the highlands once this emergency is over, but do not threaten the health of our constituents.” In my district, like in many rural areas, 35% of the population is aged over 65. We have to think about the needs of those living in such areas.

In addition to the sites I have mentioned, Cottages.com is refusing to allow cottage owners to cancel bookings without a penalty, which is simply not good enough. As this is now in the public domain, I hope all these providers will now think about their responsibilities.

As I have mentioned, some providers are behaving more responsibly. HomeAway has guidance on its booking site for giving refunds to those who cancel, but I will read one last email from somebody living in the Lake district:

“My family and I were due to take up a holiday home rental from the 28th March. We will stay away and remain in the Lake District where we live.

However you might be interested to learn that the owner of this holiday home, let through HomeAway, is refusing (at present) to cancel my booking, refund my payment of £957 or move my reservation to next year. He maintains that Skye is an ideal place to self-isolate…and as the home is available he is refusing to refund the total of my booking fee.”

[Interruption.] I can hear an hon. Member shout, “Shocking.” Skye, or anywhere else in the west highlands, is no place for anyone to self-isolate, and I hope this cottage owner, and others who are behaving in such a reprehensible manner, changes their ways.

Of course, it is not just those who are providing accommodation. Everyone knows about the Harry Potter films and the attractions of the rail line from Fort William to Mallaig. The steam trains, which operate on a regular basis, are due to start on 6 April. What on earth is the Jacobite steam train company thinking? These train trips, along with every other visitor attraction in the west highlands, must close, and they must close today.

This is my message to anyone thinking of coming to the highlands: “You will be made welcome when this is over but, for the time being, stay at home. If you are in the highlands now, please go home. The Scottish Government have already announced that ferry traffic will be prohibited for those on non-essential journeys, but you have the ability to return home today. Please do so.”

This Bill includes badly needed powers to allow more health and social care workers to join the workforce. That includes removing barriers to allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work, as well as bringing back those on a career break and bringing in social work students to become temporary social workers. It has to be said that the number of doctors, nurses and carers already seeking to re-register to help in this emergency has been one of the most uplifting stories of this crisis. The Bill allows that process to become much easier. Its provisions also allow for the relaxation of regulatory requirements within existing legislation to ease the burden on staff who are on the frontline of our response.

The next few weeks and months need simply to be about saving as many lives as possible. Try as we might to save these lives, unfortunately the truth is that this virus will inevitably end up with many of our people dying before their time. That terrible reality is why it is right that this legislation includes special arrangements and provisions to manage an increase in the number of deceased persons with respect and dignity.

Finally, something my party has raised repeatedly since the early stage of this crisis is the economic interventions required to help our people though this emergency period. I note that the legislation includes provisions to support the economy, including on statutory sick pay, that are aimed at lessening the impact of covid-19 on small businesses. While we have welcomed many of the measures brought forward by the Chancellor, we have put it on record that more needs to be done. The self-employed and the unemployed, whom we talked about earlier, need to be considered. They are under pressure and they need to know that we have got their backs. They need the security of a guaranteed income. We now have an opportunity to overhaul and fix the universal credit system—ending the delays, uprating the level of support and scrapping the bedroom tax. If we are to fight this virus together, we must ensure that everyone is supported equally and that no one—no one—is left behind.

The emergency and extensive powers in this legislation have rightly raised questions and concerns, many of which we have heard this afternoon. The imposition of measures that will significantly alter individual liberties deserves full and frank scrutiny, no matter the context. We know that the Bill sunsets after two years. However, there are serious concerns over the two-year period and the scrutiny of this measure. I know that aspects of the Bill and amendments to it will be discussed at later stages. I hope that the Government will look carefully at the safeguards of regular reporting, review and renewal if it is required.

NHS Funding Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Monday 27th January 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department of Health and Social Care
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to call Neale Hanvey to make his maiden speech.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Ind)
- Hansard - -

27 Jan 2020, 7:19 p.m.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make my first speech, in this important debate. I would like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), who had quite a lot of good lines. I do not think I am going to match his humour, sadly. I would also like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) for making his maiden speech tonight.

Being elected here to represent the communities that I grew up in is an extraordinary and humbling honour. To do so today in the presence of my partner Lino and our children makes it especially memorable. The honour of representing my constituency carries with it a significant responsibility to be my constituents’ voice and advocate on matters both here and at home, and to endeavour to serve the best interests of every constituent.

As a new Scot and a pragmatist, I am a product of this Union. Born in Northern Ireland and raised in the east of Scotland, I forged my professional career for the most part here in the heart of London. My apologies to hon. and right hon. Members from Wales: I landed in Cardiff airport once for refuelling, and I am not sure that counts, but hopefully I will remedy that as soon as possible.

If, to go by the Prime Minister’s repeated assertions, this is the most successful political union in the world, why have I and so many others never felt that to be true? Could this be an example of the iniquity that my predecessor, Lesley Laird, rightly focused on in her maiden speech, as she began her service to the constituency, from May 2017 until December of last year? Indeed, she lamented that the arguments for economic equity and social justice had been a theme not just of hers, but also of her predecessor, Roger Mullin. On this matter they have no quarrel with me.

From the coalmining communities of Benarty and Kelty, through to our largest conurbation, the Lang Toun of Kirkcaldy, and the picturesque coastal towns and villages stretching from Dalgety Bay to Dysart, the constituency I serve is bursting with ambition. That potential has been damaged by the ravages of Thatcherism and restricted in many respects by the limitations placed upon my constituency—and, indeed, Scotland as a whole—by politicians in this place who have not won an election in Scotland since 1955. All these communities have a proud history of hard work and great intellect and a strong sense of community. That sense of community has somehow withstood the imposition of political and economic policies that neglect, ignore, dismiss and sometimes extinguish the hopes, aspirations and potential of so many. While some Members of this Parliament may jeer at, dismiss and deny the potential of Scotland, I will not tire of giving voice to those aspirations and the hope of a better, independent future that works for all of Scotland.

As the UK turns in on itself, wrapped in the false promises of a Brexit that Scotland did not vote for, this Government have shaken the magic money tree to give cash-strapped public services some of the funding that they have been denied over 10 long years of neglect. This brings me to the subject of the debate and my reflections on it. While I readily agree that the proposed funding in the Bill is preferable to ruinous austerity economics, we must never forget that that was initiated by those on the Government Benches, aided by the Liberal Democrats and eased into being by the abstention of many members of the Labour Opposition.

If the English NHS is the patient, then this Bill is a fig leaf, treating the symptoms and not the cause of the English NHS’s woes. The cause is, of course, pernicious and has proven deadly for many—Tory economic and social policy—but the Government must know that. Why else would they refuse to publish their own impact assessment on universal credit and the two-child cap? What are they afraid of—the truth? In Scotland, many of us on these Benches have been working on a remedy for some time, but this Government are withholding consent and, at the same time, they ignore the refusal of consent to this damaging folly from the devolved Parliaments. We must take our Brexit medicine regardless.

In 2014, the people of Scotland voted for a status quo that no longer exists. They were promised equal status, respect and greater autonomy. That vow lies shattered, as does Scotland’s trust in this place. If Scotland is not equal, if it is not respected and if it is not listened to, are we to assume that we are hostages in our nation, forever prone to the wiles of our larger neighbour? Well, let me say this: that is neither right nor, indeed, honourable. The health of a nation cannot be improved using honorific titles in this place. It requires right, and right honourable deeds, not words. If this is the most successful union in the history of the world, why is it that we need to measure deprivation, poverty and homelessness? Whether I support this EVEL policy or not, I am denied a vote, despite the consequences for Scotland.

In closing, I will—like my predecessors—turn to the words of one Adam Smith fae Kirkcaldy, in the hope that this will be the final time they need to be said in this place:

“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”

The Government should publish the impact assessments. Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Natalie Elphicke Portrait Mrs Natalie Elphicke (Dover) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

27 Jan 2020, 7:21 p.m.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey) on his maiden speech. I pay tribute to him for the passion he expressed for his community and to all those whose maiden speeches we have heard so far tonight.

I speak in this Second Reading debate on NHS funding to acknowledge that this Conservative Government are committed to delivering record funding for the NHS to secure world-class healthcare. However, healthcare is not just about how much money goes in—it is also about how it is spent. I welcome the Bill’s intention, which is to provide financial certainty to secure improvements on prevention and detection, as well as the treatment of patients. I believe that the focus on prevention should apply to every new baby life coming into our world. Even though a hospital may be state of the art, as my local Buckland Hospital in Dover is, if proper procedures are not followed, avoidable deaths and serious injury are the result. World-class healthcare is therefore also about leadership, standards and strong procedures. It is about culture—accepting responsibility when things go wrong, ensuring that there is accountability when life is unnecessarily lost, and showing compassion to those who have suffered when mistakes are made.

I would like to take a moment to share an avoidable and sad event with the House. An experienced mother attended Buckland Hospital in Dover last January after becoming concerned about changes in the movement of her baby at 36 weeks. The baby was well developed at over 7.5 lb. The mother was in a higher-risk category, having miscarried before, as well as having other gynaecological factors. At the hospital, she was put on the standard foetal baby monitoring under the supervision of a long-standing midwife. The midwife had a student with her that day.

The mother reports that during the monitoring process, the midwife left the mother and baby at times in the sole care of the student, that the student was having difficulties getting a reliable reading and that this was raised with the midwife on more than one occasion. The reading continued to be unreliable and incomplete. However, the midwife decided to stop the foetal monitoring and signed the monitoring sheet, noting that it was a defective and poor-quality reading, before discharging the mother and baby. Baby Tallulah-Rai Edwards died shortly thereafter, within 48 hours of being discharged from hospital. She died of hypoxia, which is suffocating to death in the womb because of a lack of oxygen.

Tallulah-Rai’s mum, Shelley, and her dad, Nicholas, have come to my surgery to ask me to raise with the Minister their serious concerns about the avoidable death of Tallulah-Rai. In doing so, I acknowledge the dignity and tenacity with which Tallulah-Rai’s family have looked for answers so that other families do not experience such a loss.

Tallulah-Rai’s parents maintain that she died as a result of inadequate foetal monitoring at Buckland Hospital, which is part of the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust. There can be no doubt that mum Shelley should not have been sent home on 23 January 2019 without the proper procedures being followed and completed. This was confirmed in writing by a very senior consultant at the trust.

This incident is all the more shocking because the unnecessary death of Tallulah-Rai was far from an isolated incident. Last Friday saw the conclusion of the coroners’ inquest on baby Harry Richford, a death in 2017 at another east Kent trust hospital. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) for his sympathy and support for baby Harry’s family, as well as their dignity in their distress and their desire to ensure that lessons are learnt from the unnecessary and tragic death of their baby son.

Inadequate foetal monitoring and wider problems in local maternity services have been highlighted in the inquest proceedings as well as in Care Quality Commission investigations in 2016 and 2018. Indeed, there was even a damning secret report commissioned by the trust as far back as 2015, which has only recently come to light. As one of the local Members of Parliament in east Kent, I cannot be fully assured that foetal monitoring in every case, and without exception, is being conducted to the right standards in our local hospitals, nor can Tallulah-Rai’s parents, Nicholas and Shelley. They know that nothing can bring their baby daughter back, but they want changes to the law and the administration of healthcare to ensure that no other parent suffers an unnecessary loss.

They want to see, first, immediate action taken at our local maternity services, so that there is no risk of another baby dying where inadequate foetal monitoring is an issue, or procedures are not followed, or there is unclear or inadequate advice to patients. This cannot wait for a lengthy public inquiry—it needs action now. Secondly, the culture of the trust should be made subject to a further and detailed review. Tallulah-Rai’s parents are still trying to get answers about their daughter’s death, yet in the latest draft report to them, more than a year on, the trust has not even bothered to get their baby’s name right. The trust needs to stop hiding behind paperwork and process; it should take responsibility right now so that Tallulah-Rai’s family can mourn and move on. Thirdly, they want the right to a coroner’s inquest to be extended to all baby deaths, whenever that death occurs, be it before or after the birth date. I know that the Government were bringing forward changes to this before the election and I ask the Minister for an update on how the measures are being progressed to ensure that there is a right to an inquest in these circumstances.

This important Bill provides record funding for the NHS, but money is not everything. Effective management and oversight, responsibility and accountability, and diligence, respect and compassion are all essential features of a world-leading healthcare service. I hope that the Minister will support me and my hon. Friends from across east Kent as we look for urgent and immediate improvements locally to give mums and dads-to-be the greatest possible confidence in our maternity services right here and now.