Security issues have been tragically all too present in the national psyche over the past few months.
The terrible attacks in Westminster, Manchester, and London Bridge, Finsbury Park and the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, revealed the worst but also the best of Britain, as communities came together in support. While our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, I wanted to focus on the response of the emergency services, in particular the health service.
In my role as a Health Minister I attended meetings to coordinate the response to the Manchester attack during the General Election, and the Grenfell Tower fire last week, and it was clear that on these and the other occasions the response from police and fire services was exemplary. In Manchester, by entire coincidence there had been a full major incident rehearsal only two months before, coincidentally on the day of the Westminster Bridge attack, which had undoubtedly helped the emergency services prepare for such an attack.
The response from the NHS was also first-rate. Not only were there clear and well-rehearsed emergency responses, but staff also showed a dedicated ethos to dropping everything when an emergency arose, running towards danger to help save lives. It is difficult to express the importance of this, and we should all be grateful for their unwavering commitment.
Before Easter I visited one of the hospitals to thank staff who had responded to the Westminster Bridge incident, and met patients recovering from their injuries who were full of praise for the treatment received.
Following my reappointment as Health Minister after the General Election, I also visited the London Ambulance Service to thank control room staff, including some who had taken calls from Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Grenfell Tower incidents. I was struck by their calm demeanour and professionalism.
I was pleased to learn London Ambulance Service have established teams and protocols with other NHS and voluntary bodies to provide counselling, not just in the immediate aftermath, but an ability for staff who may have been affected from responding to a traumatic incident to access talking therapists and advice whenever needed.
We are fortunate to have such dedicated people working to keep our country safe. But we must all work together to find ways to minimise risks in future and bring our communities together to heal rather than exacerbate grievances.