Health Services

Winter is always a challenging period, and I want to thank all NHS staff and carers for their hard work and dedication. The NHS reported that, on the Tuesday after Christmas, it had its busiest day ever and that, earlier in December, it treated a record number of patients within four hours. Overall, A&E departments across the country are seeing 2,500 more patients within the four-hour standard every single day compared to 2010. The NHS made significant preparations for this winter, because winter is always a difficult time, including having 3,000 more nurses and 1,600 more doctors in full-time employment. Despite this effort nationally and locally, there remain problems we need to solve.

Having spent time in the A&E department at Treliske, shadowing the team there, I saw for myself the great job they are doing, often under considerable pressure. I also saw that many people who came along to A&E could have been cared for by their local pharmacist, Minor Injuries Department or GP. Despite the hard work of our local GPs, sometimes people wait too long to see their GPs. Sadly, the changes to the GP contract in 2004 resulted in 90% of GPs opting out of out-of-hours care. But we have been putting that right. Now 17 million people in England—about 30% of the population—have access to weekend and evening GP appointments. More than that, we have committed to a 14% real-terms increase in the GP budget by 2020. That is an extra £2.4 billion and that is expected to mean an extra 5,000 doctors working in general practice.

Ultimately, the issue of rising demand for NHS and care services is about demographic change and, as I have been saying for some time, more needs to be done to respond to that change. Over the decade to 2015, we saw a 31% increase in the number of people living to 85 and older. This is a cause for celebration, but sadly it is not matched by an increase in disease-free life expectancy. We know that when people of that age go to A&E at this time of year, there is an 80% chance that they will be admitted to hospital.

We also know that we will need to look after 1 million more over-65s in five years’ time and will need to continue to increase investment in the NHS and social care system. That is happening. But it’s not just about spending more tax payers money. It is about making smart decisions about how the money is spent.

The truth is that, to solve this problem, we need not only to increase the number of people working in general practice, which is why we are funding the second biggest increase in the number of GPs in the NHS’s history, but also to increase the number of carers and the support for family carers. Ensuring we have enough good quality care services is the responsibility of Cornwall Council. Cornwall Council need to address this and they and our local NHS leadership urgently need to get on with joining up the care they provide. This is happening in other parts of the country. This would prevent the ‘bed blocking’ we experience in Cornwall with all its dreadful knock on consequences, including cancelled operations.

As the local NHS consults on their plans for improving our local NHS and care services, I will continue to encourage the implementation here of successful approaches which have been developed in other parts of the country, where the joining up of services has improved outcomes for local people.

Sadly, as we approach the local elections in May, there is a great deal of scaremongering about the future of the NHS and talking down the considerable achievements that have been made. So let me set the record straight. We have more patients being treated and more saying they have been treated safely and with dignity and respect.

Next year the NHS will be 70 years old. I am determined to continue to ensure we have the safest, highest quality care anywhere in the world. When we have difficult winters and an ageing population, of course that makes things more challenging, but it also makes me more determined.

Published in the Falmouth Wave February 2017

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A&E

It’s often said that A&E is a barometer of the health of our NHS. Despite the fact that since 2010 A&E at Treliske has been upgraded, across the country there are 1,500 more doctors in  A&E departments and 600 more consultants, with more people being treated safely and well, there remain problems to be solved.

Across the NHS, we have more than 11,000 additional doctors and 11,000 more nurses, so the pressure on the NHS is recognised. Indeed, we have 1,600 more doctors than this time last year.

Over the decade to 2015, we saw a 31% increase in the number of people living to 85 and older. This is a cause for celebration, but there has not been a matching increase in disease-free life expectancy. We know that when people of that age go to A&E at this time of year, there is an 80% chance that they will be admitted to hospital.

There is no doubt at all that we will need to look after 1 million more over-65s in five years’ time and will need to continue to increase investment in the NHS and social care system.

The truth is that, to solve this problem, we need to increase the number of people working in general practice, which is why we are funding the second biggest increase in the number of GPs in the NHS’s history. Cornwall Council and our local NHS leadership need to get on with joining up the care they provide while enabling investment in more, better paid carers. More support for family carers too.

Next year the NHS will be 70 years old. I will continue to everything I can to support NHS staff and carers to deliver the safest, highest quality care anywhere in the world.

Tackling Homelessness in Truro

Last week I met with the primary local agencies that have the responsibility of tackling the antisocial and criminal behaviour of a small group of people camped out in the centre of Truro.

This has been going on for too long. Last Autumn, I welcomed the Mayor of Truro’s initiative of getting all the organisations that have the resources to help rough-sleepers and tackle people committing antisocial behaviour, including street drinking, around the same table to develop a coordinated action plan. There are lessons to be learned from other places where effective partnerships have tackled similar problems, so I provided information and details of additional funding opportunities.

Keeping the city centre safe and an enjoyable place for all members of our community is not the sole responsibility of our local Police, it requires effective partnership working between Cornwall Council, our local NHS, local businesses and the wider civil society of Truro.

I am frustrated that the problems people have been facing for months now have yet to resolved. There has been progress but there remains a small group of people, who I am told are refusing help and continuing their anti social behaviour. St Petroc’s are offering support in their Truro night shelter.

In order for the Police to take further action, to secure prosecutions for anti social behaviour, they need more people who have experienced or witnessed the anti social behaviour to come forward and tell them about it. People convicted of committing antisocial behaviour crimes who have alcohol or drug abuse problems can have their punishment linked to participation in therapeutic activities to reduce this harm to themselves and society.

You can email the Truro Police directly from the Devon and Cornwall website or call 101 or speak to one of the officers on the beat.

 

First published in the West Briton 11 January 2017

Environmental Protection

While some are mourning 2016 as a year of political shocks and celebrity deaths, conservationists say it has seen some “landmark” environmental successes.

Environmental campaigners warn global wildlife populations could have declined by two thirds on 1970 levels by the end of the decade, but said 2016 shows that people can make a difference.

Some of the world’s most charismatic species have seen an upturn in their fortunes, with tiger numbers increasing for the first time since efforts to conserve them began and giant pandas moved off the “endangered” list, wildlife charity WWF said.

Nepal has achieved two years in a row with no rhino poaching, while trade in the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin or scaly anteater, has been made illegal by countries meeting to discuss international wildlife trade.

The UK was among 24 countries and the EU that signed an agreement to protect 1.55 million square kilometres (600,000 square miles) of the Ross Sea in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica, from damaging activities.

2016 saw the UK commit an extra £13 million to tackling the illegal wildlife trade and, elsewhere in the environmental arena, ratify the Paris Agreement, the world’s first comprehensive deal by countries to tackle climate change.

People in Cornwall are playing our part. We will be hosting ground breaking work to develop a sustainable local energy market. A three year £19 million programme has just been agreed, including EU funding, with Centrica, British Gas, Western Power, The National Grid and Exeter University. The programme will be working with local businesses and residents, utilising new technology to develop more sustainable and lower cost energy.

I am delighted that this innovative work will be undertaken here. It is just part of a plan enabling Green Growth in Cornwall, with high skilled and well paid employment that brings.

First published in the West Briton 04/01/17

Constituency Boundaries

I really enjoyed joining some of the great, local Christmas festivities and thank everyone involved in organising local events and activities. While out and about some people asked me about “Devonwall”. As there is some confusion about what is actually happening, I thought you might find this update useful.

Firstly, I will clarify the current situation. Constituency boundaries are kept under review to ensure that MPs represent a similar number of constituents at Westminster. The reviews are carried out by the Boundary Commissions for England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. These are independent bodies that propose constituencies that must meet the Rules for Redistribution set out by Parliament.

These Rules were changed in 2013 to include the requirement that the House of Commons has 600 seats, a reduction of 50; and the requirement that all these constituencies (with the exception of four island seats) have electorates within 5% of the electoral quota. This is the total number of voters in the UK divided by the total number of constituencies (with the exception of the four island seats and their electorates).

In 2011 The Parliamentary Election and Constituencies Bill was debated and voted upon. It sought to enable the 2015 election to be fought under the Alternative Vote system, provided the change was endorsed in a referendum on 5 May 2011 and boundary changes made to reduce the size of the House of Commons to 600. New rules for the redistribution of seats were designed to give primacy to numerical equality in constituencies and regular redistributions would take place every five years.

Understanding that one of the implications of this Bill would be the possibility of an MP representing Cornwall and part of Devon, all Cornwall’s MPs made the case for Cornwall be treated as a special case. We moved an amendment to the legislation but sadly were defeated. Unfortunately, we simply didn’t have enough support in Parliament.

Subsequently, the legislation went through both Houses of Parliament and the Bill became an Act of Parliament. The Boundary Commissions are currently implementing the Act. That is a public consultation on the proposed boundaries.

Also, as you will be aware, building on the foundations laid when John Major was Prime Minister, the last Prime Minister helped enable the Council of Europe recognition of Cornish Minority Status. This special status is of course being taken into consideration by the Boundary Commission.

After the Commission report in 2018, the Secretary of State must lay their reports before Parliament. The Secretary of State must then lay before Parliament a draft Order in Council to give effect to the proposed boundary changes. This Order requires the approval of both Houses of Parliament. This order is not amendable.

We are very fortunate to live in a democracy where there are a politicians promoting a wide range of views. From what I understand, the basic assertion of the Cornish nationalists is that Cornwall is a separate nation like Wales and Scotland and should be treated as such. While I agree that the Duchy has a unique status within the United Kingdom, I accept that Cornwall is currently part of England and in turn the Union.

I think being part of the Union matters. It matters for the economic stability and jobs that our partnership brings. It matters for the defence and security of our country. It matters because of the common bonds we share right across this United Kingdom. And it matters perhaps even more so now that we are leaving the European Union. I don’t agree with the Scottish, Welsh or Cornish nationalists that want each nation to become independent and break up the Union. I think it is important to build bridges not walls between people, focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us.

There is an assertion that by having one MP represent Cornwall and part of Devon, that Cornwall is in some way diminished or weakened. I don’t accept this assertion. Cornwall remains Cornwall. It’s worth noting that Cornwall’s bishop Tim, a member of the House of Lords, represents Cornwall and some parishes in Devon. This recognises the fact that the border between Cornwall & Devon has moved over time.

It is also worth noting that one Cornish MP, Derek Thomas represents not only Cornwall but also the Isles of Scilly. As you know the Isles of Scilly are not part of Cornwall. This proves to me that it is possible for one MP to represent two distinct areas.

I am very proud of my deep Cornish roots and am proud that along with my fellow Cornish MPs we have delivered significant investment into Cornwall, including the Cornish language, heritage and culture over that last few years. I am confident that we will continue to see investment in years to come.

First published in Wave Magazine