It’s been clear for years now that what we have is a government who refuse to govern. But this has been pulled into sharp focus this week with the first ever industrial action taken by nurses in their history. We have known for a long time about the challenges facing NHS workers that are far more significant than low rates of pay. Retention and sickness rates were reported to the Health and Social Care Committee in June 2019 as higher than average by Health Education England and if retention rates were kept at 2012 levels we would have 16,000 more nurses in the system. Before the strikes even start it is worrying that hospitals may be operating with unsafe levels of staff. We saw the dedication and care that our NHS workers showed during the Covid pandemic, and instead of supporting them with the resources they need, the Government have failed to ensure that funding for our NHS has kept up with demand and which could ensure NHS staff were supported to provide the care that is necessary.
I was also able to intervene in the debate on Standards: Code of conduct and guide to the rules. Recent years have shown that we need greater regulation of the standards that govern those who work in our public sphere. The actions of Tory ministers and advisers during the Covid pandemic and the absence of an ethics adviser in Downing Street since the resignation of Lord Geidt has shown a lack of integrity at the heart of Downing Street.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee met this week for our first session of the inquiry Planning for the future of the Government’s estates. We will be looking into the value for money and progress of the Government’s strategy for its offices and workforce. This will include relocating over 20,000 posts outside of London and setting up regional hubs. As hybrid working has become more common since the pandemic, we will also be considering the impact of hybrid working on the Government’s plans for its estates. During this session we heard from staff from The National Audit Office about the initial value for money assessments of the Government’s plans. With the cost-of-living crisis well and truly upon us, it is vital that any work carried out by the Government is cost effective and will ensure long-term cost-saving that maintains Government effectiveness.
I was pleased to join a briefing from PCC Mark Shelford and Chief Constable Sarah Crew from Avon and Somerset Police with other local MPs. The relationship between local police authorities and local representatives is really important to ensure that constituents are kept aware of what’s happening and that their concerns are represented to the local authorities. It was concerning to hear about the reductions in budgets by the Tory Government. I will be monitoring this detail closely.
Today I was really pleased to speak to the first cohort of Health Degree Apprentices at the University of Exeter. It was a privilege to be able to speak to the new apprentices. Much of my work has been in the area of health and education and it is fantastic to see the work of apprentices contributing so much to the health sector. The pandemic, still with us and still kept at bay by the NHS workforce, will have given the apprentices a resilience that few cohorts before will have developed and hopefully that few future cohorts will have to develop. They have worked though extremely challenging times which makes their achievement all the more impressive. My congratulations to them all and I wish them all the best for the future.
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