Mark Eastwood MP has called for nursing students to be released to help our local hospitals and request, consideration is given to clinically vulnerable parents of school-aged children
DEWSBURY MP, MARK EASTWOOD:
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
There are a couple of areas relating to how we continue to fight the virus that I feel would benefit from some further consideration and I would urge the front bench to take another look at these and refine the current arrangement and regulations.
In my maiden speech some months ago, I highlighted the heroic efforts of our doctors, nurses, paramedics and NHS support staff in responding to the pandemic. As each day passes, my admiration for them grows even more; for their professionalism, dedication and resilience during these trying times.
At present, local NHS staff are battling against rising bed occupancy at Dewsbury hospital and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, alongside fluctuating staffing levels.
Sickness, the requirement to self-isolate and burnout due to the very demanding nature of their work and poor staffing levels, have seen wards badly hit. Having spoken to fellow members, I also understand that this is a big issue affecting hospitals outside my constituency, for example, Pinderfields, Leeds General Infirmary and St James Hospital.
In my local Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust, at times up to 20% of junior doctors in medical specialities have not been at work – this through no fault of their own. This has the effect on increasing the pressure on those who remain on duty.
It is not my intention to be alarmist, but listening to NHS leaders and those on the front line it is clear that staffing levels are at risk of being stretched too thin and the pressure only likely to increase.
Meanwhile, there are many 3rd Year student nurses and 4th year medical students in universities, who made a large difference in the first wave of the pandemic, and who could be called upon again.
A four-week placement of these students in hospitals could alleviate some of the pressure placed on them, and I know after speaking to local NHS leaders, they are keen to have this discussion with the Government. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to seriously consider this temporary measure to help release the pressure on our local hospitals and to support our amazing teams of doctors and nurses.
Mr Deputy Speaker, ensuring that all of our children get the education that they need at this time is crucial and my second point that I would like the front bench to look again at is the guidance relating to school attendance of children with extremely clinically vulnerable parents. This is an issue which has come to light within my constituency.
While extremely clinically vulnerable children can, rightly, attend school remotely, current guidance compels extremely clinically vulnerable parents, who may, for example, have a weak immune system, to send their children to school or potentially face a fine.
These parents are in a tough and worrying position, juggling concerns over their own physical health and their financial health, whilst being required to send their child to school and risk bringing home an infection when this could be easily remedied by also allowing those pupils to study remotely.
In these rare circumstances, schools and colleges are seeking to be as compassionate as possible, but they feel restricted in how lenient they can be.
I hope that the Government will consider taking another look at this guidance.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and there is much to be optimistic about, rumour has it, there may be several vaccines on their way. The introduction of rapid testing should also help control the virus until we are in a position to fully roll out a vaccine in the new year, meaning hopefully we can all get back to some form of normality.
Mr Deputy Speaker, in summary, I would ask that Minister and Secretary of State consider my request to release nursing students to help our local hospitals and that the Education Department looks at the issue I raised, regarding clinically vulnerable parents having to send their children to school during the pandemic.