When asked to reflect on 2021, it’s tempting to think it’s best to not. The year that was dominated by COVID-19, that saw so many people locked away or worse, and where many of those who went to work were afraid to do so.

But politicians, almost by definition, are optimists: it’s a vocation that people go into because we believe that the world can be better, that human ingenuity can help – that every problem has, at least to an extent, a solution.

And so it is with Coronavirus: a vaccine has been developed at lightning speed, the millions of people vaccinated the proof that it is safe. It’s right to focus on COVID in reviewing 2021, but it would also be wrong to let it crowd out every other issue.

So let’s make sure we don’t forget the strains and the achievements that have defined our NHS over the course of the year: GPs seeing more – yes more – patients, but doing it in new ways that don’t suit everybody. Millions of volunteers helping people get through difficult times and often helping in that vaccination programme itself. That brilliant vaccination programme but yes, tragically, people ill or even dying as a result of this cruel pandemic.

It has challenged the National Health Service, broken too many hearts and in some ways tested even democracy itself to destruction: we all want lockdown to end, yet we all want to do the right thing for public health. Scientists can advise, but ultimately politicians, who aren’t epidemiologists, must make finely balanced judgements that reflect all the many harms that lockdowns do. The best outcome for 2021 can be for it to lay the groundwork for a lockdown-free 2022, but that must genuinely be led by the science, which is now so much more knowledgeable about COVID.

But it is not to diminish the tragedy of COVID to note that there are plenty of other things to remember from 2021: perhaps above all, COP26 saw the world set a new direction of travel on climate change, with scores of countries finally agreeing on a move away from fossil fuels, committing to make some of the changes that are essential to see some of the most vulnerable nations on Earth defended from the perilous effects of rising temperatures. But there is more to do, be it from the countries who provide the greatest amount of pollution or indeed from our own moves to better heating and cleaner cars.

This is also the year that government has confirmed a new A&E for Boston Pilgrim Hospital and broader huge investment, Covid aside, in local NHS services. It has also seen more police on the streets thanks to a huge recruitment drive, as well as announcements that will see improvements in local train services. All these things are standard political fare in normal times, but of course this last year has been like no other. The relegation even of the moves to fix social care is testament to the unprecedented times.

So where does that leave us as we move toward 2022? Even with the uncertainty around the Omicron variant, it’s important to remember that dealing with Covid through the tightest of measures is hopefully on the way out: let’s all hope that the coming months will see less divisive, more normal politics. That is what should allow the country to move on from Coronavirus and see the benefits of the fastest growing economy in the G7 and of course that immense vaccine roll-out programme. If there’s one thing everyone should do before the year is out it’s to make sure you’ve had all the jabs you can!

The announcement of a £21m investment in Pilgrim Hospital’s A&E department is a hugely welcome boost for local healthcare – and it also came with the extraordinary privilege of a visit from the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary. If ever there were a demonstration that Boris Johnson understands the challenges we face locally in Lincolnshire and is determined to address them, this was it.

The crucial point about such much-needed money is not just that it will speed up patients getting the treatment they need and either going home or getting admitted – this is also a move that sends a powerful signal about the long-term, secure future of Pilgrim as a vital hub for local health services. That will be a major boon to recruitment too.

As Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on a previous visit, the idea that everything has to be centralised is simply not acceptable to him, or more importantly, to the public. I understand that people will always be prepared to travel a certain distance to access relatively unusual or significantly better treatment – but that can never be an excuse for changes which could cause harm in our vast, rural county of Lincolnshire.

Perhaps just as telling, however, was the reception the Prime Minister received at Pilgrim: staff and patients wanted to talk to him, and made time in what are busy schedules and rotas to do so. The sense of support for the man who is investing in the NHS, police and broadband was obvious for all to see.

It’s no coincidence that under this new government support for Wainfleet has recently been announced: the costs of East Lindsey District Council and the local fire authority – running to hundreds of thousands of pounds – will be entirely covered by central government. That means that the burden of 24-hour local staffing to help residents and of herculean efforts to pump enormous amounts of water away will not be borne by a small local authority.

The businesses that provide such huge local employment on farms will be eligible for compensation from a £2m fund too – that means there will be less pressure on them to make savings that could cost people their jobs, even if it won’t help supermarkets fill what will be noticeable gaps in some stocks because of lost crops.

Next up will be the announcement of 10,000 extra police officers across the UK – it’s a sector where Lincolnshire has previously been a victim of funding formulas that favour London and the South-east over areas such as our own. My case to government will be clear: we don’t just need our fair share of these new resources; as with Pilgrim we need to be brought up to the level of other parts of the country.

I’m confident that the Prime Minister came to Boston not because he wanted to see for himself what was needed, but because he knows what is needed, and is determined to show that he will deliver it. That’s what he’s been doing already, and what I will always push him to continue to do.

Matt Warman is the Conservative MP for the Boston and Skegness constituency.

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