Health and Social Care Workers: Recognition and Reward DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Patrick GradyMain Page: Patrick Grady (Scottish National Party) - Glasgow North)
Department Debates - View all Patrick Grady's debates with the Department of Health and Social Care
I wish to begin my remarks by paying tribute to two people who personify the extraordinary commitment of those working within our NHS and care sectors to the communities they serve. Dr Saad Al-Dubbaisi worked at the Garden City Medical Practice within Holcombe Brook in my constituency for 20 years. During this crisis, he sadly passed away. This tribute was among the many that were paid:
“A loving a kind man who gave everything for his community.”
In remembrance and in recognition of his service, hundreds of members of our community lined the streets to pay their last respects to a doctor who spread kindness and warmth over two decades within Bury.
Carol Jamabo was a care worker in my constituency. She served the public as a key worker for more than 25 years. She was popular, caring and compassionate. A relative commented that she will be remembered for her “uplifting, joyful and enthusing” personality.
There are doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, porters, cooks, receptionists, ambulance service staff and drivers. There are just too many people to mention, but all are working in NHS and care services in Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington. All have made immense sacrifices to help those affected by coronavirus. They are all heroes and heroines. I cannot mention them all, but we shall forever be in the debt of kind, compassionate, caring individuals such as Marie Sharp, the manager of Bankfield care home on Gigg Lane, and Dr Afzal Hussain of Walmersley Road medical practice.
The NHS long-term plan outlines the next step in the Government’s vision to support staff not just through headline pay but through improving their working lives, giving them the reward and recognition they deserve for always putting patients first and providing the high-quality care that all Members in this House have seen throughout the covid-19 crisis. They will forever be heroes to us all.
I will conclude by associating myself with some of the remarks of my hon. Friends. I have had the pleasure and honour of speaking with all care home managers and workers in my constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) called them the best of the best and they truly are. They deserve recognition for their highly skilled work and for the care they give to some of the most vulnerable in our community, and as a House we must do everything possible to recognise that skill and to reward their immense contribution to our country.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell), the Chair of the Petitions Committee, on introducing the debate and brilliantly articulating the many issues relating to the recognition and reward of health and social care workers. I thank all those who have signed the four petitions, which have so far amassed some 290,000 signatures between them. By doing so, they have brought this very important debate to Parliament today.
This debate comes at a particularly poignant time, when health and social care workers have been at the heart of the fight against coronavirus, working day and night to protect the NHS and save lives. They, and all the key workers who keep this country going, are the very best of us. I want to take this opportunity to once again pay tribute to the hundreds of NHS and social care staff who have lost their lives to the virus. I hope that when this is over, we can find an appropriate way to remember the frontline staff who gave their lives in the line of duty.
This was a heavily subscribed debate, and it was clear from every Member who spoke that the gratitude the whole country feels for our health and social care workers is replicated in this place. We had some superb speeches from Opposition Members, with good representation from Wales. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones) spoke with typical eloquence and highlighted the wise decision of the Welsh Government to recognise the contribution of care workers. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively to my hon. Friend’s request, or at the very least confirm that she is making strong representations to the Treasury about the tax treatment of that payment. We heard a similar point from my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones), who also reminded us of NHS Direct, which was a great innovation from the last Labour Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) rightly said that staff need to be rewarded with more than just applause, and she drew attention through her strong speech to the sorry record we have seen over the last 10 years on the NHS. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) spoke with great passion and listed a whole series of ways in which the health workforce is hit with extra burdens in the course of their duties.
My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare) drew attention to the scandal of nurses being forced to use food banks. That should shame us all. We also heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), who made the powerful point that medals do not put food on the table. She brilliantly highlighted how insecure work is a blight on the NHS and a systemic problem that needs addressing once and for all.
As we heard, even before the pandemic our frontline health and social care staff were working in overstretched and under-resourced settings. We must acknowledge that many of our frontline careworkers have been in extremely stressful and sometimes traumatic situations as a result of covid-19—situations that those of us who have not been on the frontline cannot even begin to imagine. Working in these uncertain times, dealing with a new and emerging disease, often without adequate protection, while coping with losing patients and worrying about getting ill themselves or taking the virus home to their loved ones are all contributing factors to staff burn-out and poor mental health. It is vital that we keep them all safe in the event of a second wave.
Yesterday, following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the relaxation of the 2-metre rule and sweeping changes to the lockdown in England, health leaders called for a rapid and forward-looking assessment of how prepared the UK is for a new outbreak of the virus. Those health leaders from the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, of Nursing, of Physicians and of GPs say:
“the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk.”
They also point out:
“Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain”,
and they call on the Government to focus on
“areas of weakness where action is needed urgently to prevent further loss of life”.
We cannot have any failures in preparation this time.
We may no longer be gathering outside our homes on a Thursday night to clap for our carers, but our admiration remains. It has been incredible to see the effort from staff in the last three months—staff who, too often, get very little in return. We hope that they are recognised for their true worth now.