December 28, 2021 6.00 am

Reflections 2021: Caroline Johnson – The year we fought back against the virus

And worked towards a greener future

By Sleaford and North Hykeham MP

Above all, 2021 can be described as the year we embarked together on the nation’s biggest mission to confront the pandemic.

Only a year ago many were referring to the newly released government vaccine rollout as ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ from difficult but necessary restrictions. Now we can confidently say we are marching down that tunnel with an army of more than 47 million people double jabbed and more than 28 million boosted with a third dose.

I have spent my free time volunteering as a vaccinator at our local sites this year. It has been an enormous privilege to contribute to the rollout together with my NHS colleagues, volunteers, armed forces and local authorities.

With the tragic loss of lives throughout the pandemic, these remarkable vaccines have given us a way forward, protecting our communities, reopening our schools and restarting our economy. There will undoubtably be bumps in the road in the emergence of new variants, but we now have the robust science, systems and medicines in place to fight back. Unlike some countries, I am grateful that we have been able to have a relatively normal past six months and reopen our economy and society thanks to these advancements.

As restrictions were lifted it was welcome to see large international events recommence such as at COP26 where leaders from across the world came together to sign an agreement to phase down coal and produce a roadmap for our climate ambitions. I welcome that this builds on the UK’s work in moving from 80% dependence on coal 50 years ago to around 1% to 2% today. I will continue to work with the government to ensure these promises deliver for the environment while protecting the interests of my constituents in Sleaford and North Hykeham so that we can prosper in our greener future.

I have been involved in important work this year focussing on our healthcare recovery, and particularly in local provision of NHS dental services. I have listened to my constituents’ difficulties in getting an appointment or specialist treatment on the NHS in our county, and I am aware that the pandemic has only exasperated these challenges further. I have been raising the important matter on the floor of the House of Commons, with the Prime Minister and in meetings with the Minster for Patient Safety and Primary Care.

To address these difficulties, I have recently launched my campaign for a dental school to be established in the county with the aim of improving the recruitment and retention of dentists locally. While these are early steps, I am confident that a dental school is the best long-term solution to improving NHS dental provision in Lincolnshire and I will be meeting with universities and Health Education England in the new year to discuss the next steps.

I have also been pressing the government for support for our independent shops, restaurants and cafes which make up an important part of the economy in Sleaford and North Hykeham, while also running my Christmas social media campaign to encourage residents to support them by ‘shopping local’ this festive season.

Transport remains a priority for me, and I have been involved in work to highlight residents’ safety concerns on the A1 corridor in particular. I have also been seeking assurances on safety measures for children travelling by bus to school and highlighting the importance of funding for Lincolnshire’s rural and complex highways network with Ministers. In 2019 I secured the required government investment to build the North Hykeham Relief Road and I am monitoring closely the next steps in delivering its construction.

As an active member of the Education Committee, I have worked hard to ensure the government are providing children and young people with the tools to learn and succeed despite the severe disruption of the past year. We must invest in young people’s lives and their education. I have been delighted to meet with pupils from local schools and NCS programmes this year to find out about their priorities as we look ahead to a brighter, stronger future.

I wish you all the best for the New Year!

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