It’s a beautiful sunny day today isn’t it? So frustrating that we can’t all be out enjoying it, but please understand how important it is. As soon as I’ve finished this update I’m going out for a walk, but I won’t be heading to my favourite place, Hove seafront, because I know it’ll be busy. Instead I’ll walk in the opposite direction and skirt around some of the green spaces and head through some of the beautiful neighbourhoods we have. If I see anywhere is getting a little too busy then I’ll head in another direction.
I know this is tough, but please lets help each other by spending our precious time outdoors in a way that doesn’t put each other at risk and land more people in hospital where desperately overstretched staff are themselves put at risk.
This weekend is special for me not just because of the weather but because the Labour Party has a new leader, Keir Starmer. It’s the opportunity we need to start afresh and ask you, residents and voters, for the chance to put the challenges of recent times behind us and build a new relationship into the future. I know this must be built on action not just words, but I can promise you I will be doing everything I can to use this opportunity to reconnect to the people and communities that turned their back to Labour in the last four elections. I’m throwing my heart and soul into this.
You have probably seen that I’ve also been doing everything I can to give voice to care home residents who are being put at risk and ignored at this crucial time.
When it comes to the NHS we have a system that prevents infection from start to finish, it’s a system that is under resourced and wan’t as prepared as it should have been, but its a system that works.
But in social care the very system is the problem. Families have been prevented from visiting relatives for weeks now to prevent infection, but so many of the people who work in care homes are agency staff who go from home to home to home in the course of their work. It’s broken my heart that people have been dying locally in care homes from coronavirus and their plight is all but ignored.
The staff who work in care homes are heroes and angels to me. They are amazing, brave, and professional. They care. But most care homes aren’t nursing homes, they don’t have full-time nurses there, and they are being asked at this time to cope with a public health emergency with too little equipment and resource, and all to often administer end of life care on a scale they are simply not prepared or trained to deliver.
There is only one way to keep older people in care homes safe: stop COVID-19 from entering the homes. So 12 days ago I asked the prime minister to act in the House of Commons. He promised equipment that never arrived. So last week I wrote hi an urgent letter outlining three ways residents could be kept safe:
1. Establish a testing programme for care home workers
2. Support agencies, but demand almost all workers stick to one home
3. Give care workers all the protective equipment they need
I’ve also been flat-out with the media to sort about this as loudly as my lungs will bear! Care workers and managers are telling me every day that it feels like they are screaming into the night, no one is listening to them. I am.
So this week my phone has been red hot as I’ve been begging journalists to cover the story, and I’ve been broadcasting from my flat every day, from Sky to This Morning with Phil and Holly, with my phone finely balanced on a stack of books. I’ll do whatever it takes to give voice to residents and care homes!
When you’re asking questions of politicians in interactive social media events, please think of social care. Matt Hancock is secretary of state for health and social care, but in his two marathon press conferences last week and appearances on the Sunday news programmes he forgot about the second half of his job – social care didn’t get a single mention. At one point on Marr he listed all the professions who need priority testing but didn’t even give a fleeting mention of the million people who care for our older generation. They deserve better and I’m fighting for it.