I’m a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, which will be holding hearings throughout the summer to learn lessons from the Government’s response so far to the virus, and make recommendations so that the UK is better prepared in the event of a likely second wave.
In the first session, we heard from medical professionals like the BMA, and the head of the NHS Confederation. There was a very high level of concern about a second wave this winter, but plenty of advice about what needed to be done to avoid the worst of it. It was also worrying to hear Niall Dickson of the NHS Confederation say there was a real problem retaining staff in both health and social care with significant numbers understandably feeling completely exhausted, and some wanting to leave their roles. There were reports on the session in iNews and the Guardian.
In the second session, there were some powerful and heartrending stories from people who were suffering long-term effects from the virus, known as Long Covid. The impacts are shocking: previously fit people now using wheelchairs, others being told they might never work again – and people of all ages affected. None felt they were getting the support they needed, and some were under pressure to return to work when they are still very unwell. We hope to make some strong recommendations on this to ministers.
Coronavirus and the self-employed
I joined other MPs in a (virtual) meeting of the parliamentary group for Excluded UK, which is campaigning for government support for the over 3-million self-employed who have fallen through the gaps in the Government’s self-employed income support scheme (SEISS). People’s lives and livelihoods are being wrecked by their unjust and unfair exclusion from the scheme, and the campaign to support them – which includes more than 200 MPs – will continue until the Government listens and acts.
Coronavirus testing in care homes
Despite the Government promising that all care homes would get testing kits for Covid in early July, with staff to be tested weekly and residents every 4-weeks, I learned late last month that only two of Brighton and Hove’s many care homes had received the required test kits. I raised this with the Prime Minister in a scheduled telephone call last week – he said he would look into it (both the Argus and Brighton & Hove News carried reports on this). The following day, the Government abandoned its pledge and said care homes for older people and those with dementia would not get testing until September – it was clearly a national problem, not just one that affected Brighton and Hove.
There are numerous failings in the Government’s response to Covid, but the shambles over testing has been one of the worst, and is clearly putting lives at risk. It really is completely unacceptable.
Coronavirus and PPE supplies
The supply of personal protective equipment to frontline staff in the NHS and care homes has been an on-going scandal from the start of this crisis. The UK has spent far more than any other European country acquiring PPE, with 73% of contracts being awarded without going out to tender – some of them to companies with no experience of providing medical supplies. There are far too many cases where the PPE has either not turned up, or is not fit for purpose. I have written to the health minister with a long list of companies who either have no track record in this industry, or have failed to deliver the ordered supplies. You can read the letter on my website.
Coronavirus impacts on the community
Covid continues to have a huge impact in my constituency, from the economic fallout to the pressures caused by lockdown. In recent weeks, I’ve been contacted by a number of families who are struggling to get the mental health support they need for their children. I've been raising concerns about pressures on our mental health services for some time, but some families are now at breaking point. A shortage of psychiatric intensive care unit beds nationally is making it difficult for them to access specialist support they need, and delays with child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are having an impact on young people’s mental health. I am in contact with local providers about service pressures and following up with ministers about the situation in the city.
I mentioned in my last newsletter that I’m working on an exciting initiative in my role as co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Green New Deal. We are developing policies for a fairer, greener future, involving members of the public every step of the way to ensure plans for a Green Recovery have widespread public backing. I’ve been taking part in online evidence sessions and this weekend 150 people will be taking part in workshops, examining in detail some of the ideas and proposals which have been put forward so far. We’ll be presenting our report to Parliament in the early autumn.
There’s more information about Reset on the website https://reset-uk.org/
On the first weekend in August, Brighton is usually a riot of colour and joy for Brighton Pride. It had to go online this year because of Covid, but there was still a fantastic online event, We Are Fabuloso, which raised thousands of pounds for the Rainbow Fund which supports so many brilliant community groups in the city.
Government proposals on planning
This week, the housing minister unveiled plans to tear up our planning laws – a move which will do nothing to provide the affordable and social housing we so desperately need, and poses a real threat to previous green space and nature. The Government has launched a consultation process on its plans, which have already been condemned by housing organisations, architects, the Town and Country Planning Association and local councils which will lose their voice in planning. I wrote about my concerns in my column in Metro.
August 6th marked 75 years since an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima – a day we must never forget and pledge never again to inflict such mass destruction. I wrote a column for Left Foot Forward saying the UK should mark the anniversary by scrapping Trident and signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Join my team
Last, but not least, I’m hiring! I’m looking for an admin manager to join my small, dedicated, hardworking team in London, managing policy correspondence with constituents, diary invitations and triaging a very busy parliamentary inbox. The details are here – please spread the word.