Rachael Maskell – 2020 Speech on Covid-19

Below is the text of the speech made by Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central, in the House of Commons on 11 May 2020.

In opening, let me send my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost family members at this difficult time. The complications of isolation make bereavement more challenging, and I pray that all can find peace, as they work through their pain of loss.

Again and again, we are struck by the professionalism, care, compassion, courage, commitment and love of our NHS and care staff. They have gone beyond their duty to serve us, as have so many frontline workers, ensuring that the nation is fed, supported and cared for. I know, in York, of the sacrifices that have been made by so many and thank all workers and volunteers for each act of kindness that they have shown during this crisis.

I want to raise one issue on the behalf of those workers before moving to my main contribution. In November 2014, following the Francis report into the serious issues uncovered at Mid Staffordshire hospital, the duty of candour was introduced. If healthcare workers are to be safe, we need to ensure that there is a place where all can safely raise concerns, and that those concerns are responded to. The duty should extend to all. I know that concerns have been raised by careworkers in my constituency and yet they have not been addressed. Access to PPE is one such example. Employers, local resilience forums and, yes, Government need to be honest in their response to the challenges that are presented, and mitigation must be put in place to protect workers.

Last night, the nation was thrown into confusion, but I believe the Prime Minister was clear: he was shifting risk from the state to individuals and businesses. That is unacceptable when dealing with such a dangerous virus. Today, I want to raise two major issues missing from the Government’s strategy. To mitigate the worst aspects of the pandemic, we need better data and we need a risk analysis. The data is scant and the risk analysis absent. As covid-19 will be prevalent until a vaccine is administered, the right data needs collecting now.

I have two brief examples. We receive hospital mortality figures and, latterly, figures for care homes. However, if we are looking into infection control, it is not the location of death that is important, but the location of infection. How many covid-positive hospital admissions originate from care homes, how many have been infected ​in hospitals, and then how have many died? Clearly, infection data, not just mortality data, must be shared. We need data to expose where risk resides. How do the infections and deaths of so many people align with protected characteristics and underlying health conditions? If they do align, with which ones, and what about socioeconomic circumstances? Data needs to be granulated, so that risk is understood and mitigated.

Secondly, where is the risk register? Today, I am calling on the Government to publish a risk register. Unless there is a full risk analysis of all the risks, how can we balance them and put appropriate mitigation in place? Without a risk register, how can anyone scientifically scrutinise the Government? Every Department, every local authority, every statutory body and every employer must produce a risk analysis not only on the basis of health but, importantly, on the basis of the economy. Each decision must also be accompanied by an equality impact assessment. Had that been the Government’s approach, we would never have seen the austerity measures that stripped our NHS of vital resources such as PPE and staff, and all the gross inequalities demonstrated in the mortality statistics. We would not have seen the mistakes that have occurred over the past few weeks, with gaps in the economic package causing severe hardship. We would not have had last night’s announcement. We need an evidence-based approach to decision making, and we need this crucial information published now. I call on the Government to put data and a risk analysis in the public domain.