This week I was in Parliament again, with Tuesday seeing me question the Health Minister. I praised the incredible work of the staff at Croydon University Hospital, where over 250 people with coronavirus have sadly died. I also used the chance to question the fact that although very much in its early stages, the data so far seems to indicate that in Croydon and indeed across the UK, the virus seems to be disproportionally affecting those who are from poorer backgrounds, and specifically those who are from BAME communities. Across the UK, you are up to three times more likely to die from coronavirus if you are from a BAME background. This is an unsettling trend and one that I hope the Government is going to pay close attention to. We have long known of the health inequalities across this country, and it is deeply concerning just how much this disease has brought its extent to the fore.
On Tuesday I also made a speech from the front bench about fire services in the north west. I highlighted the cuts that have taken place over the past decade to our fire services; there has been a fall of over 11,000 fire service personnel over the period, equivalent to a 20% reduction in the service. I asked the Government to consider reversing this trend in light of the pivotal work that our firefighters carry out every day, a fact especially clear during the coronavirus crisis where firefighters have stepped up to drive ambulances, assist with the delivery of essential goods and I even hear have helped deliver babies!
This week’s Prime Minister’s Question time was the first time the Prime Minister and new Labour Leader Keir Starmer were opposite each other. So, I was pleased to appear on BBC Radio 5 Live and Sky News to discuss coronavirus and the issues raised. I particularly highlighted the issues in care homes – where the death rates are 280% higher than they normally would be at this time of year – nearly 6% of the care home population have died in the last month and the government does need to get a grip of that situation.