My Lords, I know three people who have contracted Covid-19, one of whom became seriously ill. Fortunately, they are now all well again, thanks to the marvellous NHS. Unfortunately, it has come to light that members of the BAME communities are more likely to contract Covid-19 with fatal consequences compared with the rest of the population. I understand that a letter signed by 70 dignitaries has been sent to the Prime Minister asking for an independent inquiry to look into the reasons why this has happened. Can I ask my noble friend the Leader of the House if an independent inquiry will take place? If so, what is the timetable for that to happen?
My Lords, my noble friend the Minister referred to the fact that the number of deaths that have occurred as a result of coronavirus stand at 18,738. The BAME community represents about 14% of the UK population, but unfortunately accounts for about 35% of all coronavirus patients in intensive care. The number of people in the BAME community who have contracted coronavirus and died as result is disproportionately high.
My noble friend might perhaps recall that I talked about the burial of Muslims when the Coronavirus Bill was discussed in your Lordships’ House. The Muslim community has got together, and burials are taking place in very difficult circumstances. However, I have been told by leaders of the community that the availability of land for burials should be kept under review and that a system should be provided if the land issue becomes a major problem and burials cannot take place. Secondly, the Government should consider providing additional funds to local authorities, which are dealing with very difficult circumstances. They are stretched to the limit and need additional resources for burials and cremations. Will the Minister comment on those two points?
Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:
- How many hospitals are being cleaned to the National Health Service specification for cleanliness published in December 2004.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, every NHS trust must show that it meets the national specifications as part of the Healthcare Commission’s annual health check. Trusts must declare themselves non-compliant if there has been a significant lapse from those standards.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. I declare an interest as my company provides specialist insurances to the cleaning industry. We all appreciate that there are problems relating to hospital cleanliness. Does the Minister support the conclusions of the recent Patient Environment Action Team survey, which shows a better performance from contracted-out cleaning services?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the comparison of in-house services and outsourced services has been discussed by noble Lords on a number of occasions. I have not seen any hard evidence to suggest that a decision to outsource services has a direct impact on the quality of cleaning. Ultimately, it depends on the nature of the contract in relation to outsourced services or the nature of management in relation to in-house services. The key factor is leadership. When NHS trusts give a clear indication that cleanliness is a high priority, good services follow from it.