Cancer Services

I am sure that we were not the only family toasting absent friends on Christmas Day. Sadly, some time ago my mum died of cancer. I know how important access to high quality cancer services are to families living in the Duchy. I remember the strain on my mum and dad, having to travel to Plymouth for some of her radiotherapy treatment. My father starts radiotherapy at Treliske in January.

NHS England are currently consulting on a new model for radiotherapy services in England. The consultation is seeking feedback on a new specification for adult radiotherapy services.

Radiotherapy is a core part of modern cancer treatment. It can cure cancers, can assist in alleviating symptoms and is cost effective. It is second only to surgery in its effectiveness in treating cancer and around 40% of patients who are cured receive radiotherapy as part of or the whole of their treatment. The development of the proposed service specification sits alongside NHS England’s £130 million investment in radiotherapy equipment which was announced last year.

The specification has been developed by talking to doctors, nurses, radiographers and public and patient engagement groups and was informed by a period of stakeholder engagement in 2016. The aim of the specification is to encourage radiotherapy providers to work together in Networks to concentrate expertise and improve pathways for patients requiring radical radiotherapy for the less common and rarer cancers. This will help to increase access to more innovative radiotherapy treatments, increase clinical trial recruitment and make sure radiotherapy equipment is fully utilised. There is no intention to reduce the number of radiotherapy providers, nor is it considered to be a likely outcome of these proposals.

NHS England is keen to receive feedback and answer your questions on the proposals through the consultation. You might want to read the Radiotherapy Service Specification and Consultation Guide and Impact Assessment.

The consultation ends on 24 January 2018. You can email: england.npoc-cancer@nhs.net or write to:   Radiotherapy Consultation, NHS England, Floor 3B, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London, SE1 6LH.

I have been in touch with a number of constituents who are worried about the possibility of some services moving from Cornwall to Plymouth or Exeter in Devon.

I share their concerns and have written to NHS England reminding them of Cornwall’s special geography. I appreciate that centres of excellence based in urban areas with large populations can achieve better outcomes for patients, especially rare conditions. However, if people have to make long journeys on a daily basis over a many weeks for their treatment, I am concerned that the improved patient outcomes that motivate NHS England to centralise services won’t be realised. Long and difficult journeys might prevent people from accessing treatment. Considerable extra journey times would make combining caring with employment responsibilities more challenging too. There would also be considerable extra patient transport costs for individuals, their families and the NHS.

It can be a long journey from Penzance to Truro, let alone Plymouth.

First published in the West Briton 28/12/17

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Happy Christmas!

December has been a busy month not only in Parliament but working with constituents on a wide range of local matters.

I was pleased to visit A & P docks in Falmouth and to hear the good news about commercial, naval and fleet auxiliary vessels that are in the pipeline.  Since being elected I have worked hard to support the docks to win vitally important Ministry of Defence contracts. I was particularly pleased to hear that managers are planning on taking on more apprentices.

Neighbouring business, Pendennis Shipbuilders, has award-winning apprenticeship programmes partnering with the Falmouth Marine School and it is great to see the superb quality of their work celebrated around the world.

I was pleased to participate in a meeting of the organisations working to keep Falmouth town centre open for business during the road closure, which comes into effect on 6th January, enabling vital electricity infrastructure improvements. I hope you will join me in making an extra special effort to shop in Falmouth in the New Year. The Town Team are doing a great job and our local retailers deserve our support to keep them trading at this challenging time of year.

I am very grateful to The Poly in Falmouth for responding so positively to my request to show “Unrest”, a film about ME.  A constituent contacted me and asked me to take an interest in ME. I was happy to do so as a close family friend and member of the local life boat suffered from this much misunderstood condition. The film will be followed by a panel discussion to raise awareness, so do consider coming along to The Poly, 24 Church Street, Falmouth, TR11 3EG, 01326 319461, info@thepoly.org on Saturday 27th January 2018 at 7.30 pm.

I have visited a number of schools and was pleased to see the progress at Falmouth School towards the much anticipated opening of the new community sports facilities in 2018. The leadership and determination of Brett Miners to deliver these new facilities that will benefit not only the school community but the whole community is to be commended.

We are very fortunate, thanks to teachers and parents working together, that all our local schools are now ranked as good or outstanding. The Roseland, Falmouth and Penryn are ranked the top three secondary schools in Cornwall. Well done to all concerned.

Before I was elected as the local MP, I was a volunteer at Falmouth Primary, listening and encouraging children with their reading. I am delighted that, as a result of government reforms to the teaching of reading, latest data shows more children are now confident readers. Like many families over Christmas we will enjoy reading to each other, including my favourite Cornish poet, Charles Causley, and his poem The Ballad of the Bread Man.

Finally, a huge thank you to the volunteers who will be staying in night shelters and providing community meals for people over Christmas. Also to our emergency services and all those working over the holidays. Happy Christmas.

First published in the West Briton 21/12/17

Animal Sentience

Since being elected, I have been actively working with local people to improve animal welfare. With my Conservative MP colleagues, we have taken action to ban the plastic microbeads which do so much damage to marine wildlife and new laws come into force in January. We will make CCTV mandatory in abattoirs to ensure animals are not abused or mistreated. We are banning the trade in ivory which puts the lives of African elephants in danger. And we will legislate to increase the sentence for the worst acts of animal cruelty to five years imprisonment. That will ensure the sanctions for cruelty towards animals are as strong here as anywhere in the world.

And, as we leave the EU, new opportunities arise to further improve animal welfare. Having long campaigned against exporting live animals for slaughter, I am pleased the Government will take action to restrict and, if possible, end this trade. Also ensuring that food imports meet the highest welfare standards. And we will take action to deal with puppy farming and the cruel trade in pets reared in unacceptable conditions.

We will also legislate to ensure that the principle that animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and pleasure, is embedded more clearly than ever before in UK law. Some have been arguing that we must vote to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to uphold this principle and a Labour amendment has been laid for debate next Tuesday which seeks to amend the bill accordingly.

Due to faulty drafting, this amendment would mean animal sentience was only recognised in law for the next 2 years and would only apply to Ministerial decisions made in that period. Conservatives believe animals are sentient for life not just for the next two years, so our legislation will ensure this happens.

First published in the West Briton

Disability Confident

While we have near record levels of people in employment, too many disabled people are missing out. We need to close the gap between the number of disabled people who want to work and the opportunities available to do so – not just to benefit those who have the skills and desire to work, but also to ensure employers are not missing out on a huge pool of talent.

Many employers already have a strong track record in this area, which is why we want to encourage a business to business approach where organisations can learn from each other.

A range of government support is on offer from our Access to Work service, which provides disabled people with support or adjustments they need in the workplace, to the Disability Confident scheme, which helps employers do more to recruit and retain disabled workers. To date more than 5,000 employers have signed up to Disability Confident. Across the country, almost 600,000 disabled people have entered work in the last four years. I’m determined to build on this so that everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential.

Last week I helped launch our ten year vision to see one million more disabled people work. Our new Work and Health Programme brings together employers, the welfare system and health services and will not only support disabled people and people with health conditions who want to enter work, but also focus on supporting them to stay in work. No two people are the same and the Health and Work Programme will be testing and evaluating new approaches to find out what works best.

The change needed is not one Government can deliver alone. We all have a part to play to enable disabled people to play as full a part in our community as possible.

First published in the West Briton

Our vision to help disabled people thrive in the workplace

While we have near record levels of people in employment, too many disabled people are missing out. We want everyone to have the opportunity to go as far as their talents can take them – not just to benefit those who have the skills and desire to work, but also to ensure employers are not missing out on vital skills.

As I began my new role as Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, I was surprised to learn that around one in six working aged adults report having a disability. During the last two weeks, I’ve seen some of the excellent work underway to improve employment opportunities for disabled people. I heard from employers from across the country who are creating opportunities for disabled people and ensuring they don’t miss out on the full range of local talent.

Behind the numbers are individual people and it is inspiring to meet disabled employees who are thriving in the workplace thanks to a supportive environment and small adjustments that help them to do their job. Many employers already have a strong track record in this area, which is why we are encouraging a business to business approach where organisations can learn from each other.

A range of government support is on offer from our Access to Work service, which provides disabled people with support or adjustments they need in the workplace, to the Disability Confident scheme, which helps employers do more to recruit and retain disabled workers. To date more than 5,000 employers have signed up to Disability Confident. Across the country, there are almost 600,000 more disabled people in work than there were in 2013. I’m determined to build on this so that everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential.

While we have made progress on disability employment in recent years, there’s still much more to do. Last October the Government consulted through our Work, Health and Disability Green Paper on what needs to be done to support more disabled people into employment. We asked for views from disabled people, employers, charities and others on how we can change attitudes among employers as well as improving local services so that we can break down the barriers disabled people still face in the labour market.

Today we launch our bold 10 year vision to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027. Our strategy on the future of work, health and disability brings together employers, the welfare system and health services. We will not only support disabled people and people with health conditions to enter work, but also focus on preventing people from having to leave employment with supporting them to stay in work. No two people are the same and we will be testing and evaluating new approaches to find out what works best.

The change needed is not one Government can deliver alone. We all have a part to play in creating the culture change that’s needed. Only by coming together, working together, will we be able to improve all our working lives by creating more inclusive, good working environments.

First published in the Times