Yesterday, clinicians set out our advice for those who are shielding because they are clinically extremely vulnerable. The whole House will want to pay tribute to the enormous sacrifice of that group, who are among the most vulnerable to covid-19. Very shortly, the Prime Minister will set out to the House the next steps to get the country back on her feet.
There is no doubt that lockdown has taken its toll on the mental health and wellbeing of many children of all ages, whether by way of social isolation, physical inactivity or a sense of loss. I know that my right hon. Friend is very exercised by that, so, as we understand more about the impact, will he look again at the long-term NHS plan to establish whether it is really able to meet what will be a more acute challenge in the future?
That is a very important question on supporting children’s mental health. We absolutely reiterate the long-term plan ambitions for service transformation and expansion. Indeed, one of the things we have learned during coronavirus is that when it comes to paediatric mental health, telemedicine can actually have a better and more effective impact than face to face. That is a good thing to have learned and will help the roll-out further.
On the app, the Secretary of State told us it was crucial and would be ready by mid-May. Experts warned him it would not work. He spent three months, wasted £12 million and has got nothing to show for it. It is a good job he is a tech-savvy expert on apps; otherwise, this would be a right shambles now, wouldn’t it?
On the contrary, ensuring that we use technology to its best possible effects is incredibly important. I would have thought that the shadow Secretary of State would want to side with and support the efforts of all those, including in the NHS, who are doing the work to ensure that we can get this up and running as quickly as possible.
In the past few days, I have been listening to the Secretary of State’s excuses. He is like the Eric Morecambe of the Commons: he has been playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order. On test and trace, local areas such as Leicester, which has had a spike, still do not have local data; GPs still cannot refer people for testing; and NHS staff are still not tested regularly. He has spent £100 million on a Serco and Sitel call centre where the tracers are saying they have nothing to do. This is not a “world-beating” system; it is more like a wing and a prayer. When are we going to get a functional test, trace and isolate strategy?
The shadow Secretary of State is far better when he supports the Government than when he pretends to oppose them. We have all seen him explaining why the steps that the Government are taking are the sensible ones, why it is important to move from a national lockdown as much as is safely possible to local outbreak control, and why test and trace is important. When he gets on to saying that the money we have spent to protect the NHS and put in place the actions needed to get us out of the lockdown is wasted, I think that that is opposition for opposition’s sake.
I am absolutely delighted that my right hon. Friend will be able to follow guidance and take more steps out after 6 July. The decisions on shielding were all based on the best clinical advice. Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, has led the medical advice on this programme with great élan and wisdom. The reason that we are able to make these changes and recommend these steps to my right hon. Friend and the 2.2 million others in his situation is that we have protected the NHS and got the virus right under control.
Of course it has been necessary to have tight controls over visitors in hospitals during this crisis, because people picking up nosocomial infections in hospital has been one part of the epidemic that we need to get under control. My heart goes out to those many people who have made sacrifices, including the hon. Member’s constituent, and of course we always keep this under review.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. She may have seen this morning that in Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia has been put back into lockdown because of a local outbreak. So far, the local outbreaks we have seen have essentially been clusters in very small areas, and we have been able to bust those clusters and tackle them. We do, of course, hold the powers to have wider local lockdowns. Those will be based on judgments based on the epidemiological advice and advised by the joint biosecurity centre, working with all the relevant agencies.
We will bring forward that White Paper. The work has been ongoing even while we have been dealing with coronavirus. As far as I am concerned, the Wessely review is one of the finest pieces of work on the treatment of mental ill health that has been done anywhere in the world.
Absolutely. When we set up the loneliness strategy in 2018, when I was the Culture Secretary, I had no idea that covid-19 would make it so vital. I very much hope that, in England at least, the measures the Prime Minister is due to set out very shortly might help in that regard. Covid has underlined the importance of loneliness as an issue that we must directly and actively tackle.
Because this is a big team effort by a combination of public and private sector partners. I pay tribute to Deloitte, without which the testing programme would not be possible. I pay tribute to all the pharmaceutical companies and I pay tribute to Amazon, which has delivered the home testing with remarkable success. Instead of trying to divide, we should unite and bring people together.
Yes. David Rosser is a great leader of a very, very impressive trust. I was speaking to him only last week. There is an important lesson from covid, which is that many of the NHS central rules and much of the bureaucracy was lifted to allow local systems to respond as a health system. That has worked well. We need to learn from that. We need to not only make that permanent, but see where we can go further in that sort of system working.