Lib Dem Franklin Issues Open Letter to Guildford’s Tory MP

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Zoe Franklin, Guildford’s Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson, has raised “key issues” on the Coronavirus emergency in an open letter to Guildford’s Tory MP, Angela Richardson.

Yesterday  (Saturday, April 17) Martin Giles of The Guildford Dragon was expected to interview Guildford’s MP Angela Richardson. 

Ms Franklin makes three points, asking Ms Richardson to make sure all Covid-19 related deaths are reported, including those in care homes, about how the shortage of personal protection equipment for health workers is being addressed and to urge that “virtual” parliament is recalled immediately for scrutiny and accountability “to ensure we get through this as a nation as quickly and effectively as possible”.

Asked for evidence about any PPE shortage in the Royal Surrey or local care homes, Ms Franklin said: “Staff at the Royal Surrey and local care homes are doing an amazing job in incredibly difficult circumstances but given the number of pleas for PPE on local social media channels, it is clear they are in need of additional resources.

“We have local schools donating PPE and making it in their school workshops, local people sewing masks for care homes and other local people making scrubs.

“The BBC this morning ran an article about how a large NHS trust in the South rang them to ask for the contact details of Burberry and Barbour so they can seek help to provide gowns for staff. We don’t know which NHS Trust this is but it is clear that right across the country there is a shortage of PPE.

“Just three days ago there were newspaper reports that the UK missed three opportunities to be part of an EU scheme to bulk-buy masks, gowns and gloves and has been absent from key talks about future purchases.”

In a prompt response, Ms Richardson said that constituents had been raising similar concerns directly with her. She assured Ms Franklin the issues were being raised at cross-party conference calls, chaired by Cabinet member Penny Mordaunt and that:

“MPs, regardless of party, have been writing into every Department and have been receiving responses from ministers and civil servants”.

She said all Covid-19-related deaths were properly recorded and counted. Regarding PPE supply, while acknowledging initial problems, Ms Richardson said: “We now see supplies going into new areas of increasing demand through our Local Resilience Forums for our care workers and social workers.”

She added that she fed those concerns over PPE “directly into the Health and Social Care Department when it is related to the NHS and into the Housing, Communities and Local Government department when the need has been in the community and deliverable through the Surrey Local Resilience Forum.

“I have received swift responses from both departments,” she added.  “I have regular contact with our frontline leaders and our council leaders and there is an excellent constructive response by all to the difficult situation we find ourselves in.”

Certainly not the frontline leaders in Waverley Borough Council, Angie! You haven’t rocked up for their weekly conferences for the past two weeks!

Ms Franklin, asked about her general view of the government’s handling of the pandemic, acknowledged that it was a challenge and: “…aspects of the government response should be applauded.

“But delays in providing PPE in the quantities needed, in starting the lockdown and allowing large events such as the Cheltenham races to go ahead, and in ramping up testing for Covid-19 among NHS staff have caused issues and may ultimately result in the high-pressure situation we find ourselves in being longer than it could have been.

“I hope that once we are over the worst of the outbreak Parliament will review the approach taken to ensure that as a nation we are better equipped to handle any future outbreaks should they occur.”

She also praised Guildford residents saying: “I would like to say a big thank you to the majority of people across our communities who have been very diligent in the way they have followed the social distancing and lockdown guidance.

“It has shown the care the people of Guildford have for each other. I would simply remind everyone that as the lockdown continues and the weather gets better and better please continue to stay home. It really is crucial to enabling us all to get through this.”

Full text of Zoe Franklin’s Open Letter to Angela Richardson MP

Dear Angela
 
As we enter the fourth week of the coronavirus lock-down, I am writing this open letter to raise three key issues with you on behalf of the residents of Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages, issues that are being widely discussed online and no doubt in homes around our constituency too.
 
In normal circumstances, these questions would be raised in the Houses of Parliament by parliamentary colleagues, however with Parliament not due to return until 21st April, and what that return will look like still unclear, I wanted to raise them directly given their importance to local people.

1. On Tuesday, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggested that the coronavirus death toll in the UK may be 15% higher than daily NHS figures indicate due to deaths outside of hospitals not being included. Transparency is crucial in the fight against coronavirus so that all sectors involved in fighting it can make informed and effective decisions. It is also key to maintaining public trust and engagement with the stay home, stay safe message.
On behalf of local people can we count on you to urge your government colleagues to immediately ensure that all those who die of coronavirus are counted, not just those who die in hospital?


2. In recent government briefings ministers have seemed to place the blame for the lack of PPE on health workers, accusing those on the front line of using ‘precious resources’ when they are putting their lives on the line to save people, including the Prime Minister. Why is this the case when it is clear from the appeals for PPE from NHS and other health workers across the country on social media that there is insufficient PPE reaching them in the first place


3. Continuing on the issue of insufficient PPE resources, what are you doing to correct this situation for the hospitals, care homes and other healthcare settings across our constituency?


Finally, I ask you to support the cross-party call for the immediate virtual recall of Parliament. It is crucial that proper scrutiny and accountability is maintained throughout the coronavirus outbreak to ensure that we get through this as a nation as quickly and effectively as possible.
 
I look forward to receiving your reply.
 
Regards,
Zöe Franklin
Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Guildford, Cranleigh and our Village
 
Full text of response from Angela Richardson

Dear Zoe

Many thanks for writing to me on behalf of the residents of Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages.

I can assure you, on the basis of the increased amount of correspondence I have received from constituents over these many difficult weeks, they have been raising these issues and concerns to me directly too.

While Parliament has been in recess, your elected Liberal Democratic colleagues have been raising the issues you mention in your letter below, as well as many other concerns in a cross-party conference call hosted by Penny Mourdant, seven days a week, in her role as Paymaster General in the Cabinet Office.  These have been helpful to all MPs, as many of the issues are nation-wide rather than always constituency specific.

MPs, regardless of party, have been writing into every Department and have been receiving responses from Ministers and Civil Servants.  In my role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Education Ministers, my contact details have been made available cross-party as a conduit for concerns and I have been very happy to ensure colleagues from all parties have those concerns raised with the Ministerial team and have received replies.

Furthermore, Select Committees (which are cross-party) have been meeting virtually during recess and holding Government Ministers to account.
To answer your last point first and for the reasons laid out above, I am satisfied that Parliament returning on the 21st of April, by whichever means The Speaker and House Authorities determines best, will in no way prevent scrutiny of Government which has been carried out successfully over the last few weeks of Recess.

To answer your questions directly:

1. All those who sadly die with Covid-19, whether they are in Hospital or elsewhere, are counted.  In the community, those responsible for writing the death certificate must be certain of the cause of death and certain that Covid-19 is present, this is more difficult in the community.  In Hospital, tests are able to be carried out on all patients presenting with symptoms and therefore the daily update is accurate.  As you will no doubt know, it takes many days for a death certificate to be issued out in the community and there less certainty as to whether Covid-19 was present creating a lag, which is then picked up with the ONS figures, but to answer your direct question, all are counted.

2. Regarding PPE and the conversations I’ve had with the excellent leadership in our local Hospital the issue that needed resolving quickly was guidance on the use of PPE.  When the guidance was updated, our frontline services were able to respond quickly and effectively.  Clearly there have been global difficulties in the supply chain for producing PPE at a time of great global demand and while sometimes wrinkles need ironing out at the beginning of a delivery system, we are fortunate that our armed forces stepped in to get PPE supplies moving across the country, to where the demand was highest and we now see supplies going into new areas of increasing demand through our Local Resilience Forums for our care workers and social workers.  It has also been heartening to see our schools, Surrey University and business step in where they saw a need and work to supplement supplies in making and delivering additional PPE to the Royal Surrey.  We can be proud of how fantastic and generous our community is.

3. In terms of my role as your Member of Parliament, whenever I have been notified of a need for PPE or a concern over PPE (as well as other issues raised), I have fed those concerns directly into the Health and Social Care Department when it is related to the NHS and into the Housing, Communities and Local Government Department when the need has been in the Community and deliverable through the Surrey Local Resilience Forum.  I have received swift responses from both Departments.  I have regular contact with our frontline leaders and our council leaders and there is an excellent constructive response by all to the difficult situation we find ourselves in. It has been helpful to see party politics put to one side with positive cooperation, as all acknowledge how difficult and devastating the Covid-19 pandemic has been to not only the UK, but to our global friends and neighbours.

Be assured that I and my small team are working continually on behalf of the residents of Guildford, Cranleigh and our Villages during this difficult time.

I wish you and your family good health.

With best wishes,

Angela Richardson MP

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