This crisis is certainly making us make changes to the way we live and work. Some of them have been surprisingly effective and forced Members of Parliament like me to think of new ways to make ourselves available to constituents. Just over a week ago I tried out my first ever Facebook Live question and answer session. After a slightly late start, thanks to some initial technical gremlins, I answered about 25 questions sent to me via Facebook or email, ranging from my views on our future relationship with China and Keynesian economics to definitions of vulnerable people and accessing Universal Credit. I really enjoyed the experience. I had expected to do it for about half an hour, but I had so many questions and was enjoying it so much I ended up online for an hour! Even so, I didn’t manage to get through every question and so I will be doing another one shortly.
Anyone who watched my Facebook Live will already know about my personal dental crisis. A crown on one of my teeth fell out on Easter Sunday. I am very fortunate – my crisis is purely one of vanity. I am not in pain or in danger of infection or anything more serious (for now. At least). For others I know that access to dental care during this pandemic is a serious concern and sometimes very traumatic. The government has suspended routine face to face dental care to protect the public and dentists themselves in line with the Covid-19 restrictions. However, I want to assure you that urgent access to dental care is still available for those who need it.
The following process is in place to get urgent dental advice and care:
- All NHS practices are expected to provide urgent telephone advice and triage. So if you have a regular dentist, don’t visit the surgery but do telephone. They can give you advice and prescribe painkillers and antibiotics if required.
- If you don’t have a regular dentist you can refer to www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-dentist to find details of a local practice or you can call 111.
- If either your dentist or 111 think that urgent face to face treatment is necessary they can refer you to a designated Urgent Treatment Care site. These sites are only for pre-arranged dentist referrals and you are urged to use this system rather than trying to drop in or use A&E.
The government is providing direct financial support for NHS dentists, and for private dental earnings via the wider economic support package, but I am pressing ministers to provide further support as I know that many dentists in the constituency are struggling.
For me and my half-tooth though, it’s a case of grin and bear it; with less grinning and more bearing it!
This was my attitude last week, with the resumption of Parliament. And we saw the first ever virtual proceedings in the entire history of our Parliament. I was keen to be a part of this historical moment and so I was absolutely thrilled when I was successful in the ballot to ask a question during the statement to the House by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock. I prepared a question about NHS capacity and included a heartfelt thanks to all our NHS staff, care home staff, domiciliary care providers and key workers in Hertford and Stortford. It was a strange experience, sitting at the kitchen table in a virtual waiting room, watching the Chamber with anticipation to be called. After about two hours a voice came over the computer and said “Julie Marson, we’re unmuting your microphone.” I sat up straight in my chair and tried to compose myself and forget that I had a gap in my teeth. The Speaker then stood up and announced the end of the session. I came so close to being a part of this historic virtual Chamber, but just missed out, stuck in that virtual waiting room! I’ll keep on trying though.
The government has said all along, quite rightly, that it is being led by the science when it comes to our national response to Covid-19. The lockdown and social distancing is difficult, there’s no getting around it. And you have responded magnificently to the challenge. I recognise that there is a desire to move on and return to some sense of normality but it is vital that we don’t ease restrictions too soon and risk a second peak in the virus. Protecting the NHS and saving lives is the priority for the Government and judging how best to do this whilst deciding how and when to get the economy back up and running is a huge task. This weekend I received two emails within an hour of each other: the first writer told me that I was a disgrace for supporting the lockdown and the second urged me to resist any lifting of the lockdown measures. A clear indication of the maxim ‘to govern is to choose’. Please do continue to follow the social distancing instructions, there were reports over the weekend of very small pockets of our community losing patience, but we must be strict with ourselves and others. This is the only way to speed up the process and return to some semblance of normality as quickly as possible.