Liz writes April 2020

“The NHS belongs to the people.” The bold opening line of the National Health Service constitution reminds us of the power of the state and citizens working hand in hand for mutual benefit. And there has been no greater example of that principle in action, as over recent weeks.
Like so many, I was deeply moved last Thursday when, at 8pm, I stood on my doorstep and joined millions of others in applause to express thanks to the heroes working in the National Health Service.
From our porters to our admin staff, nurses and healthcare assistants, clergy, paramedics, surgeons, doctors and managers, all are pitching in and playing a heroic role, risking their own lives each day, in order to care for and heal others.
And the deaths of three dedicated doctors, Dr Amged El-Hawrani, an ear, nose and throat consultant, Dr Habib Zaidi, a GP, and Dr Adil El Tayar, an organ transplant specialist, serve as a stark reminder that the risk to the workforce is real.
Gestures like the national round of applause are important; they recognise selfless hard work and help keep spirits up. But on their own they are not enough. Day after day we have listened to Government ministers telling us they are “ramping up testing” and that much needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is “on its way”.
The Government must now deliver on those overdue promises, so that our NHS can function at its most effective and staff can attend their shifts and return to their loved ones unharmed.
For the elderly, the poor and workers on zero-hour contracts, this crisis presents entirely new challenges and new disparities, the likes of which we are not adequately prepared for.
We must, however, remain positive and acknowledge the collective show of strength, and the resilience of our workers and volunteer force. Only last week we saw grassroots organisations popping up everywhere to aid the NHS, and over 750,000 people signing up to the NHS Volunteer Responder app.
This army goes far beyond the health service, with so many of our wider public sector workers; care workers, refuse collectors, social workers, emergency service workers, teachers, school staff and so many others, all playing their part to keep our communities ticking and providing meals and support to the families that need them. And let’s not forget the essential role our armed forces and shop workers continue to play.
Ministers should work much more closely with councils, charities and care homes to ensure resources are made available, so no one is forced to suffer unnecessarily because of this crisis.
The charitable and voluntary sector has taken a huge hit in this crisis, with community fundraising efforts being hindered and presenting a challenge that third sector simply hasn’t faced before.
St. Oswald’s Hospice have, this week, launched a campaign to raise £1.25 million to keep their essential services going, and they’re not alone. FACT (Fighting All Cancers Together), based in my constituency, continues to drop food parcels to their services users, some of whom have had their cancer treatments paused during the crisis.
Charities like St Oswald’s and FACT rely heavily on fundraising events and income through their high street stores. We need their services more than ever, but these charities need the Government to provide urgent funding to help the sector and workers on the frontline.
There are some great initiatives going on within my constituency and the wider Gateshead borough. Age UK Gateshead, for example, are combining their resources with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Edbert’s House and mutual aid groups to protect the most vulnerable, elderly people who have been asked to stay at home for 12 weeks.
Isolation and loneliness can really affect our older people and last week they made and received over 2,400 local phone calls to check in with our older people and make sure they have the supplies they need.

So, thank you to every one of the local heroes who are making a real difference to peoples lives. Please know you are not alone in this fight and we salute your selfless work.

Sport England launch new Coronavirus emergency fund

Sport England has opened a new £20 million Community Emergency Fund to help sports clubs, community sport and physical activity organisations, through the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

The fund is now open and welcomes applications for grants between £300 and £10,000 to help organisations experiencing short-term financial hardship or the ceasing of operations due to the impact of Coronavirus.

All information, including criteria, FAQs and the application process, can be found on Sport England’s website below.

https://www.sportengland.org/how-we-can-help/our-funds/community-emergency-fund

Your NHS needs you!

NHS Volunteer Responders has been set up to support the NHS during the COVID-19 outbreak. To do this we need an ‘army’ of volunteers who can support the 1.5m people in England who are at most risk from the virus to stay well. Our doctors, nurses and other professionals will be able to refer people in to NHS Volunteer Responders and be confident that they have been matched with a reliable, named volunteer.

You can help by signing up for one or more of the tasks listed below. Once you have registered and checks are complete you will be provided a log-in to the GoodSAM Responder app. Switch the app to ‘on duty’, and you’ll see live and local volunteer tasks to pick from nearby.

This programme enables volunteers to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, which is permitted under the new rules announced by the Government on 23rd March 2020. Volunteers may be asked to show the active task they are responding to if asked.

Volunteers must be 18 or over, and fit and well with no symptoms. Those in higher-risk groups (including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions) will be able to offer support by telephone.

Your NHS needs you! Join our team today.

Charities provide essential frontline services, but they need more funding during COVID-19 crisis

Charities are providing much of the frontline support in our communities during this crisis, but they need additional funding to continue their work. It is vital that the Chancellor recognises this and provides contingency funding, so they can continue to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable.

I raised this with the Minister yesterday. Listen to my speech here:

Call for contingency funding to support self-employed

I have received a lot of enquiries from self-employed constituents over the last few days, and heard a number of stories from our micro-business owners, who are fearful for their future and require immediate support from the Government to survive the coming months.
 
Yesterday, I raised your concerns in the House of Commons and called on the Government to provide immediate contingency funding, to provide stability during the Coronavirus crisis.
You can listen to my speech here:

Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.

Last night the Prime Minister announced strict rules around the movement of people, which we must all take to reduce the spread of the virus.

The message is simple – stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives.

Stay at home

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home

Bin collections and COVID-19

Advice from Gateshead Council in relation to bin collections states:

To help protect our crews and you and your family, we need you to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before you do any of the following:

  • before you put anything in your bin
  • when you put your bin out for collection
  • when you bring your bin in after collection

Full information on bin collections can be found here.

Guidance for parents

I have been contacted by key workers who are unsure about whether their children can still access school, so they can continue to provide essential services to keep our health service, public services and essential supplies going.

The link below includes important information for parents and carers of children at registered childcare providers (including nurseries and childminders), primary and secondary schools and further education colleges. This is for both state-funded and independent schools.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers