Jonathan Ashworth questions Matt Hancock in the House of Commons

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Heath Secretary, today asked a series of questions to Matt Hancock in the House of Commons:

All our thoughts as always are with the loved ones of those who have lost someone to this horrific disease and again we thank to our brave health and care workers.

Clapping and medals are appreciated – does he agree NHS and care worker deserve fair pay, mental health support and PPE? Frontline staff still raise a lack of PPE – can he update us on stocks of sterile gowns? We rely on international staff – will he scrap the health surcharge they have to pay?

We are tracking towards having one of the worst deaths rates in the world. Ministers say we are through the peak, but can the same be said in the care sector given the numbers of deaths reported today?

We support the lockdown. But it is right we engage in a debate over how we transition to the next phase.

Our strategic aim must be to suppress this virus, not simply flatten its spread, in order to save lives and minimise harm. Testing, tracing and isolation is crucial.

Does he agree we should mobilise local authority public health officials, other specialists like environmental health officers, and expertise in primary care? Wouldn’t that be a better route than outsourcing the call centre work to firms like Serco?

We support digital tools but there are privacy and data concerns, so will he publish a data protection impact assessment as he keeps us updated on the Isle of Wight trial?

Deprived areas experience Covid-19 mortality rates more than double those in less deprived areas. There is a disproportionate mortality rate amongst BAME communities. Doesn’t this show that Covid thrives on inequalities and we need a funded strategy to support low paid, deprived and marginalised communities including enforced protections in the workplace when we transition out of lockdown?

What is the attitude of ministers to banning flights or testing at ports of entry given the Chief Scientific Officer told the Health Select Committee today we imported many cases from Spain and Italy in early March? This is at a time when, for example, the Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid game was allowed to go ahead?

But we now face a mountain of unmet non-Covid clinical need, with 2 million operations cancelled, treatments delayed, A&E attendance down, cancer referrals dropping. How will the NHS meet this need while also continuing to treat Covid patients? Will he now allocate additional investment to help clear the growing waiting list backlog?

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