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

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Tom Randall Portrait Tom Randall (Gedling) (Con)
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate. The “Protect the NHS” slogan represented the very real danger, at the beginning of this pandemic, that the health service might be overwhelmed. That did not happen, I believe, for two reasons: because the public adhered to the strong public health messaging and because our NHS staff stepped up to the challenge.

As the Member of Parliament for Gedling, I receive regular updates from Amanda Sullivan, from NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire CCGs, and Tracy Taylor, the chief executive of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. I would like to thank them for their work in updating me. I was amazed in those updates at the very hard work being done throughout the county at work such as working rapidly to expand intensive care capacity, and for ensuring that the demand for PPE across the county was being met.

I would like to put on record my thanks to the doctors, nurses, GPs, pharmacists, care home workers and other key workers who have worked hard for their dedication. It is clear to me that that dedication and hard work is widely appreciated. As I have walked through my home town of Arnold, I have been amazed at the drawings of rainbows in front windows, showing support for key workers and offering hope for a better time to come.

That better time will, of course, require a strong economy to generate revenues for our public services. I am pleased that, because of that, we have been able to offer a 6.5% pay rise for all staff on the “Agenda for Change” pay scales, including nurses, and the implementation of a five-year GP contract framework. I am also pleased that we have been able to deal with the thorny issue of pension tax rules and the change to the taper allowance at the last Budget, which I know had been a big concern for consultants and made additional work prohibitive. As the British Medical Association has acknowledged, the vast majority of doctors have now been removed from the effects of that taper.

We have faced what is possibly a once-in-a-century event, and I think it is right that we recognise that in some way. A constituent of mine, Elizabeth Gull, has proposed the creation of a medal for NHS workers. When I raised this with the Prime Minister last month at Prime Minister’s questions, I was pleased to see that he considered it to be an excellent suggestion, and I understand the Cabinet Office is looking into the measure.

We should also recognise that NHS staff and others have been working at full capacity for several months now. I hope that there will be some reflection by employers and others about giving assistance not only in pay, but to help them rest and recuperate so that, going forwards, they will be able to work at their full mental and physical strength.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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25 Jun 2020, 2:14 p.m.

We have clapped and we have clapped. In fact, the country clapped week in, week out for eight weeks, and we all embraced it—so much so that, when we did not, we missed it. There is no taking away from the fact that this pandemic has been tragic for many people, and to those who have lost loved ones, what can we say? Our heart goes out to you. There is really nothing worse. For those who have lost their jobs, it is tough. I have lost mine before, and I know it is tough and how hard that can be.

The clapping—yes, the clapping—became to many a symbol of a country coming together and of thanking the ones on the frontline. They are the ones who, in effect, were coming out of the trenches every day to save people who had caught this terrible virus. I can only imagine how it would have felt for myself or my wife going to work and knowing that one of us would be coming into contact with this deadly disease, which could be taken home. Even worse would be knowing that I would, at some point in the day, see someone die, and such deaths would be reported on the news each night. Some might say, “Well, that’s what nursing is about.” Some might say, “You must get used to it.” Some might say, “It’s just another day.” Some might, but I will not: I was not there, so how can I? What I can say is that I am glad that they were there for us. Thanks to this Government, the efforts of the frontline staff and our national effort, we are coming through this. There is light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, it is within touching distance—so much so that we can now start to reflect on what we have all been through.

This motion comes after several petitions calling for us to recognise and reward our health and social care workers. When I last counted, 200,000 people, including 245 of my own constituents, had signed one of these petitions calling for our frontline staff to receive the recognition they deserve. I keep saying “frontline staff” because I think that many thanks should go to the doctors, carers, nurses, porters, cleaners and everyone else who makes up the frontline in our NHS and social care sector—those who, when many in the country were furloughed and spending time with their families, were putting themselves at risk and missing time with their loved ones. For many in these frontline jobs, Easter was cancelled, and many have worked back-to-back shifts.

We must remember that we may not all end up in hospital during our lives, but there is a good chance that we may spend some time in a nursing home, so carers there, who are pretty much all on the frontline, need recognition too. Some of them really went the extra mile, as they never went home at all to keep the virus away from their residents. Every night the Government have taken time to stand in front of the nation and tell us where we are with this virus, but they have never given us the figures for the people our carers have put back on the road to recovery. This is difficult with care homes—