LOCAL MP Julian Knight has reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining services at Solihull Hospital and ensuring the local NHS is ‘fit for purpose’ in a post-Covid Britain.
The hospital, part of University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, currently has ‘Covid free’ status and as a result has seen its walk-in centre stopped as services focus on caring for those in a non-coronavirus environment.
In a wide ranging interview Mr Knight said: “Our hospitals and GP surgeries have been under intense pressure and we need to ensure that we do not leave people in need of elective surgery behind, but ensure instead that the NHS is fit for purpose.
“My goodness it brings a lump to my throat to think about the work they have put in, because it’s gone above and beyond every call of duty.
“Staff must be physically and emotionally shattered.
“Yet, post Covid, there are going to be other surges, perhaps other forms of Covid and we have to make sure we get our local NHS back on a positive kilter and that the commitments we have for Solihull Hospital continue, to return to a situation where the health economy serves the people in our community properly.”
He also voiced concerns over the impact the pandemic is having on the health of the nation as a whole, particularly with the curtailment of grassroots sport, saying he would happily trade Olympic gold medals to see children healthier and fitter.
“Physical activity between the first two lockdowns went down six per cent, and it’s stayed down,” said Mr Knight, who chairs the government’s digital, culture, media and sport select committee.
“Now, six per cent doesn’t sound like a huge amount but it’s actually worth about £4billion to the economy, but more than that it’s about life outcomes for people.
“We know this from this dreadful pandemic which has preyed on many who are not as well as others and fitness is an area which can help.
“Post Covid money is going to be tight and there will be calls I am sure for some cutbacks in sport but I would emphasise that what we must not do is cut back grassroots sport because of the health outcomes.
“The fact is children have better educational achievement when they play sport and if anything if there is to be a shift of emphasis then it needs to perhaps be from elite to grassroots, because without grassroots you do not have elite sports.
“I love the Olympics and everything like that but frankly I would trade gold medals for kids being healthier and that in itself would boost elite sports because people would be healthier.”
For armchair sports fans he reiterated his view that goal-scoring top level footballers should ‘think twice’ before hugging because of the poor example it set for Covid-hit Britain.
“We have all had to give things up in this pandemic and I’m not a killjoy, but children do look up to footballers and there is a moment, when
the camera is upon them and they need to think how to act, particularly in that goal-scoring moment of joy,” he said.
On Brexit he acknowledged trade problems for exporters were less ‘teething problems’ and more ‘toothache’ and said something had to be done to sort them out.
“Having 71 pages of documentation to fill in for a single case of fish doesn’t do anyone any favours,” he said.
“It’s certainly a pain, and as we have seen with the European Commission’s actions regarding Northern Ireland and the Covid vaccines, sometimes they do make political decisions.
“However I believe there will be a narrowing, that they will see that it actually helps to have as frictionless trade as possible with the UK.”
A one time Remainer, he says he sees an optimistic future for the UK outside the European Union.
“Am I a Remainer who underwent a ‘road to Damascus’ conversion and emerged as a hardline Brexiteer as some would like to paint me?
“No, I just respected the views of the British people and the people of Solihull who voted 56 per cent to leave and I got on and did it, simple as that.
“And you have to be optimistic because what’s the point of not being optimistic? I cannot think of anything worse than not wanting your own country to do well.”