This has been a challenging week for Birmingham, and we are now the UK’s second biggest COVID-19 hotspot after London. Our National Exhibition Centre is being transformed into a 2,000 bed NHS Nightingale Hospital with the help of the British military and I am so grateful to all those working hard to get it ready in such a short time frame. It is vital that we support the NHS in the fight against the coronavirus by continuing to adhere to the Government’s guidelines, despite the beautiful weather we are now experiencing. You can find a reminder of the social distancing rules here – please do check back every so often for updates. My thoughts are with the Prime Minister and his family this week, and I send him all my best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Tuesday saw World Health Day and a report on the BBC News at 10 that night showed the personal pressure and risk our healthcare workers face everyday. They are a credit to their profession and to the country and we should not forget the dedication they show every single day during this crisis when it is over.
I’ve written to the Home Secretary this week regarding the immigration status of NHS workers. 13% of our workforce were born outside of the UK, rising to nearly 30% among doctors. I have a constituent in Birmingham Ladywood who works as an NHS doctor and who is concerned that should he lose his life to coronavirus, his pregnant wife would be deported from the UK. He understands the risks his job poses to his own health, but feels duty-bound to continue his work to care for those who are suffering. This selfless dedication deserves our respect, our support, and our compassion. We must give all our NHS workers certainty over their immigration status and extend that right to their families should they die in service to the NHS. If we truly believe in the values at the heart of our NHS and public services, the least we can do is give those working so hard certainty about their ability to stay in Britain for as long as they wish.
A new platform has been set up for people to input their own experiences of having coronavirus symptoms. The more responses they get, the better they will be able to build resilience in the NHS’ response moving forwards. The NHS coronavirus status checker can be found here. Businesses can also help the NHS and other key workers by donating any spare personal protective equipment. Birmingham City Council are looking for donations and if you think you can help, please visit the City Council’s website for further information.
It’s been an important week for the Labour Party this week with the results of the leadership elections. I’m thrilled Keir Starmer has been elected and I am confident that he will be able to unite the party so that we can form a cohesive and strong opposition capable of supporting the UK Government through this crisis as well as holding them to account for their decisions and actions. A strong Government needs a strong opposition and I’m confident that with our new-look Shadow Cabinet, Labour will perform that function effectively.
On Monday I was pleased to join a Bereavement Services webinar with Birmingham City Council councillors and members of Public Health to continue discussions on my report into Bereavement services in Birmingham. It does seem apt that discussions around the reform of our services to fit the needs of 21st century Birmingham with its growing population and mix of ethnic and religious communities took place virtually as a response to social distancing regulations. It just shows we can be creative in finding solutions when we have to be – and it’s time we were creative in finding solutions around bereavement not just through necessity, but through compassion and understanding for the beliefs and feelings of others. I want Birmingham to be able to work with its fantastic mix of communities in order to meet the needs and wishes of all.
The Government have this week announced more support for charitable organisations that are struggling to deal with the impact of the coronavirus as financial insecurities have caused donations to slow. £750 million has been set aside: £360 million will be directly allocated by Government departments, and £370 million to be distributed via grants. The Chancellor also announced that the Government would match fund all donations to the BBC’s Big Night In appeal to be aired on the 23 April and begin by contributing £20 million to the National Emergencies Trust appeal. You can read more about this announcement here.
As ever, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!