JULIE ELLIOTT: A better plan is needed to deal with the winter challenges

Last week, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid set out the Governments’ Autumn and Winter plan for the NHS.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 12:00 am
the need to protect the most vulnerable, to support those working in the sector who have already given so much

Vulnerable people will be invited to have a booster jab, and the Government has stated it will put into action the UK’s Chief Medical Officers’ recommendation that a first vaccine be offered to 12–15-year-olds.

This is welcome news; the JCVI has estimated that 112,000 lives have been saved by vaccines this year and the additional boosters and vaccinations of young people will help us further progress into normal life.

This is especially important too as we approach winter – the booster jab is an extra, necessary step to protect the most vulnerable, and those that need it.

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But the Government still has work to do encouraging those that are less likely to go and get vaccinated, and whilst a large majority of those over 16 have had the protection of both doses, and the effect on public health is clear, there are still many who have not yet made their decision.

The vaccine rollout has already been a tremendous success, and it is important to remember the incredible work done by the NHS in ensuring the rollout has been smooth and effective, whilst continuously taking care of us and our loved ones every single day.

I do hope the Government commit to properly supporting our healthcare workers through funding of services, clearing of waiting lists and a proper pay rise.

The need for investment in our health service is evident, but the Conservative government’s plan to increase national insurance next year to fund social care unfortunately does not do this, whilst in turn disproportionally affecting lower income households. Their plan will lead to further harm for the people who need support most.

This leads to a challenging winter for many households. Heating costs rise, cost of living goes up, and the Government cruelly follows through its £20 cut to UC.

When the NI rise comes in next year, it will be a double whammy on working families, and the winter plan announced by the Health Secretary does not go far enough to solve the issues that this Government created for itself through historic underfunding of services.

The people of Sunderland and the North East deserve better.

We simply must see a plan a better plan to deal with the winter challenges, to protect the most vulnerable, to support those working in the sector who have already given so much, and to ensure we have a sustainable service for years to come.