Health and Social Care Workers: Recognition and Reward Debate

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Department: Department of Health and Social Care

Health and Social Care Workers: Recognition and Reward

Paul Bristow Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow (Peterborough) (Con)
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I would like to place on record my thanks to everyone who works at Peterborough City Hospital, the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, Caroline Walker and her team, my local clinical commissioning group, everyone at Peterborough City Council, all the GP surgeries in Peterborough and all the community pharmacies in Peterborough who have worked so hard to get us through this tough time.

I want to focus my remarks on home care and domiciliary care workers. If we want parity of esteem between social care workers and NHS workers, and there is a conflict there, we need the same parity of esteem between care workers who work in care homes and those who help people in their own homes.

I have heard many personal stories, both good and bad, as a member of the Health and Social Care Committee and in my work as the constituency MP for Peterborough. I remember talking to Richard, who told me that he felt that it was almost cheating to call what he did “work”, because he spent lots of his time talking to friends—the people he cared for. Mel told me that she would always recommend social care as a career, despite some of the challenges that she has, but too often we hear bad stories about the experiences of staff who work in domiciliary care. People were being tutted at for wearing their uniform out in public—there is a lack of understanding that domiciliary care workers wear their uniforms as they travel between clients’ homes.

Understanding is key to all of this, because lots of people still call this low-skilled work, not understanding that domiciliary care work involves administering medicines and doing other complex tasks. A domiciliary care worker needs to be a real people’s person, and they are often hidden heroes in our communities. My father died relatively recently. He was a strong and independent man. Domiciliary care workers cleaned him, dressed him and gave him back his dignity, and my mother and I can never say thank you enough for that.

Home care is the biggest part of the social care sector and it employs hundreds of thousands of people. I would like to ask three questions in the time remaining. We talk a lot about valuing our social care staff and parity of esteem, but how can we resolve this problem relating to the value of NHS and social care workers? What can we do that is concrete? Would it be right for local authorities to pay for social care activities? Can we do better by looking at outcomes? Finally, can we look to integrate our NHS and social care workforce as they have in Denmark?

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Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley) (Con)
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We have been fighting a war in Rother Valley over the past few months. Our enemy has been the coronavirus and we have all made great sacrifices. No one has sacrificed more than our incredible health and social care workers, who have put everything on the line to defeat this terrible virus. I speak from personal experience: my mother-in-law, Joyce, works in the NHS, and our family has shared the anxiety and worry that health professionals’ families are experiencing up and down the country.

Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow
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May I place on record my thanks to my hon. Friend’s mother-in-law, Joyce, who I believe works at Peterborough City Hospital?

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford
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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Paul Bristow) for his kind words. I thank all the people who work in the NHS. Without their dedication and experience, we would not be in the position we are in today. The British people owe those heroes an eternal debt of gratitude. Thanks to them, and to the Government’s strong and decisive actions, Britain is recovering day by day.

I pay tribute to the health and social care workers of Rother Valley. Once again, they have risen to the challenge and proven themselves to be the backbone of our community. Likewise GPs, such as those at the Stag medical centre and the Swallownest health centre, have been working hard to continue to treat people throughout the pandemic. I was moved by a recent letter from one of my constituents, Graham Makin, notifying me of the phenomenal work carried out by the care workers at Waterside Grange care home in Dinnington, who are looking after his wife during this crisis. Graham writes:

“the outstanding dedication and incredible expertise that all the staff give to the residents. It is very close to a ‘family’ environment. To them this is not a job—certainly not for the money they earn—it is truly a vocation and a passion.”

Graham is of course right. He goes on to urge a better deal for those in the care sector. I am delighted that the Prime Minister has made social care a priority and pledged to consider social care as being of equal importance to the NHS. I know that everyone in this House and across our nation wants us to get social care done.

However, we must not forget that behind our health and social care workers there are many others in the community who have helped the NHS. Robert Holland, an engineer from Dinnington, offered to use his engineering expertise to convert tyre inflation equipment to hospital ventilators. Cawthorne’s Travel has been laying on free buses to take NHS workers to Rotherham General Hospital. Local groups, such as the Thurcroft coronavirus action group, led valiantly by Cath MacCartan and Diane Oxley, have been doing such great work for our community. Those selfless actions are just the tip of the iceberg in Rother Valley.

I ask the House how best we can recognise and reward health and social care workers, but also those who have done so much to help the NHS. People in Rother Valley have already taken this matter in their own hands. For example, coaches, parents and players of Laughton FC’s under-11s have already been fundraising for hampers for NHS workers. Mark Kelsall from Maltby has been creating wonderful oil paintings of local NHS staff. Shaun and Halle Salmon created an amazing Lego superhero mural that is now in the reception of Rotherham Hospital. Those are just a few ways that the people of Rother Valley have given back. For my part, I am proud to have instituted the Rother Valley hero awards for this very purpose.

I contend that nationally we must do the same by rewarding campaign medals to our British heroes who have fought the virus. My constituent Andrew Gardner of Thurcroft suggested to me that we should hold a memorial event for health and social care workers, which would take place in Whitehall much like the events on Remembrance Sunday. I believe that that proposal merits serious consideration and should be taken forward. Ultimately, it is of the utmost importance that the House pursues all avenues, including looking at pay and rewards, in recognising and rewarding the heroism of our health and social care workers, and the selflessness of those who have helped the NHS both in Rother Valley and across the United Kingdom. Without them, we would not have been able to pull through this crisis.