This week John McDonnell MP raised concerns in Parliament about the closure of the Heathrow Control Unit which is now desperately needed to confront Ebola.
In an oral question to the Secretary of State for Health John asked “In May the Government announced the closure of the health control unit at Heathrow airport in my constituency. It contained the staff who undertook the monitoring, screening and treatment of passengers who were sick. I believe many of those staff have now been made redundant, so can the Secretary of State tell me what the staffing arrangements will now be at Heathrow airport? Also, will a training programme be developed for airport staff themselves, including cabin crew and others?”
John was concerned at the decision last May to close the unit containing staff highly skilled and experienced health control staff at a time when many countries are strengthening their public health screening procedures at ports of entry. These countries believe Infectious diseases and pandemics such as SARS, H1N1, MERS and Ebola Virus are now primarily spread through aviation as a mode of transport.
John said, "Once again cuts to essential areas of service provision have been made by this government to find savings without thinking through the consequences and, in this instance, possibly putting the health of the nation at serious risk. I am naturally especially concerned for the health of my constituents working at Heathrow."
In responding to John’s question the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, announced that the Government will invest in about 200 staff to screen for EBOLA at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports. Continuing concerns has been expressed however at the confusion displayed by the Department of Health in implementing the new screening procedures.