North West Norfolk MP: A tough time but we’re getting there
The latest column by MP James Wild during the pandemic, Friday, January 22, 2021
Every 30 seconds a Covid patient is admitted to hospital in England.
In that same time-frame more than 70 people receive a vaccine.
The rollout of the vaccines continues apace; more than 4 million people have now had their first jabs.
It’s great news that Snettisham surgery began vaccinations last week joining St James, St John’s in Terrington, and QEH.
I have been inundated with messages from constituents wanting to express their thanks to the GPs, staff, and volunteers who are involved in this incredible effort. From all of us – thank you. Large scale vaccination centres are opening across the county, including in North West Norfolk in the coming weeks.
I know how keen those in the priority groups are to get their vaccine, but please be patient and don’t call the surgeries - your turn will come.
People are rightly concerned about relatives, friends and staff in care homes. I have been told by the chief officer of Norfolk and Waveney NHS group that they are aiming to vaccinate all residents over 65 and carers by the end of the weekend.
This week in Parliament I scrutinised the performance of NHS Test and Trace. Given its budget this year is £22 billion, it is important to ensure taxpayers’ are getting value for money so I challenged the amount spent on consultants fee levels. From a standing start a year ago, there is now capacity for 800,000 tests to be carried out every day – with the faster lateral flow tests in addition to that - and there have been improvements in the number of people successfully contacted and asked to isolate.
A Norfolk Public Health support service is being expanded to West Norfolk to provide welfare checks and assistance to people who have been asked to isolate. It aims to ensure people have the help they need so they can stay at home to help stop the virus spreading.
This will help people get hold of food and medicine and advise on other support, including financial help if needed.
Vulnerable families will continue to receive free school lunches and other essentials over February half term – as they did over the Christmas period - through the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme. Norfolk County Council has received £2.7 million central government funding to provide this support.
One of the things Covid has made even more difficult is being able to see a dentist. This is a long-running issue and before the pandemic, only 65 per cent of contracted NHS dental activity actually took place. Nearly 20 per cent of people were unsuccessful when trying to get a dental appointment.
In the House of Commons and then on Radio Norfolk, I spoke about the need for a plan to deliver better access, particularly for children in West Norfolk.
There’s no quick fix and other parts of the country face similar challenges. But I will continue to work with ministers and the NHS East of England direct commissioning group, whose responsibility it is to commission those services, to improve access to dentists.