Welcoming investment in new maternity services at Treliske

The summer recess of Parliament provides a great opportunity to spend more time visiting local organisations and listening to local people. Over the past week, I have visited local businesses, charities and Treliske.  

Yesterday, I was delighted to sit in on the monthly ‘team talk’ of RCHT staff and had the pleasure of handing out certificates to staff nominated for the NHS Parliamentary Awards. These are prestigious annual awards, judged by senior NHS clinicians as well as the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens.  Linzi Lancaster and her team were SW regional winners and I was pleased to learn more about their important work while I was at Treliske. It is always a pleasure to recognise the brilliant staff in our local NHS. 

It was good to hear the really positive feedback from staff following this week’s news of a major investment of just under £100 million pounds into new facilities at Treliske. This, I was told, was the largest single investment in the hospital since it was built. This new funding will enable the building of a new Women and Children’s hospital as well as creating a new entrance.  It follows the good news in December of just under £35 million investment into Haematology, MRI and Oncology services. The building work for this investment needs to be completed before the work on the Women’s and Children’s hospital can start.  

Yesterday, I visited the staff on the wards currently providing these services to learn more about the plans. While enormous effort is being made to deliver high quality, safe care in the current wards there is no doubt that the new facilities are much needed. As the population of Cornwall grows, and medicine and treatments evolve, more space is needed. There is also the opportunity for the specialist teams at RCHT to offer more services in the community, with new clinics in other health care settings across Cornwall as well as in people’s homes. 

I also followed the pathway which patients take when coming into A&E. It was good to see at first hand how changes have been made to improve patients’ experience. Of course, there remain huge challenges, especially around partnership working with other parts of the health and care system in Cornwall.  It was sad to see how the lack of mental health service professionals on the night shift, a service provided by CFT, had affected people’s experience of A&E as well as Trust’s staff.  I very much hope that the 24 hour service is up and running again very soon.  Mental health is just as important as physical health and we would not tolerate a lack of health care professionals to treat a person experiencing a stroke or heart attack.  

I am looking forward to visiting some local GPs and Public Health staff at Cornwall Council. While funding for our NHS increases each year, we know there is more to do, especially with our community hospitals and adult social care and Cornwall’s MPs will continue to work together. 

First published in the West Briton 08/08/19


Supporting our local NHS

Yesterday, I raised the serious situation at Treliske in Parliament. I am determined that support is provided to the leadership of the RCHT to enable them to deliver the safe and high-quality care that we all depend on. I know how hard healthcare professionals and managers are working to resolve the current situation while also delivering more substantial reforms that aim to prevent the current situation occurring. I will continue to do everything that I can to support the staff at RCHT, including securing additional support from NHS England and the Department of Health, to work with our whole health and care system to tackle the pressures they face. 

Yesterday, in Parliament I also had the pleasure of meeting Linzi Lancaster from the RCHT who received a prestigious national award – The Future NHS Award. Maggie Vale also received an award for Volunteer of the Year and was represented by Natalie Swann and Jodie Wilson from Healthwatch Cornwall. It’s important to recognise that there is so much that the RCHT and the wider health and care system is doing really well. 

I have thought for some time that Treliske simply does not have enough beds to take care of our population. I have raised my concerns, that are shared by many people, with the leadership of the NHS in Cornwall and have been repeatedly and firmly told that is not what is required. I have offered to make the case to the Government for a new hospital and have been told that is not required. The leadership of our local NHS have a plan and that is to enable more people to be treated in community health and care settings, preventing the need to travel to Treliske. I will continue to support our local NHS leaders and the decisions that they make and work hard with them to secure the investment to deliver their plans. These plans do include more improvements to the facilities at Treliske. 

Some will say it’s all about money. However, the NHS is receiving record levels of investment and, locally, each year our funding is increasing. Cornwall Council has been given a boost in funding for adult social care. I am sure more money is needed but it is also about how it is spent. I have information on my website about how much Cornwall receives. 

We do have an ageing population and too many frail, elderly people arrive at Treliske who, with the right care and support, could be cared for at home. From my personal experience with family members and from my professional experience speaking to medical professionals, as well as time spent with staff in the A and E Department at Treliske, the lack of an integrated care system in Cornwall is still a major problem.  

This is a long standing and persistent problem. NHS England has invested in staff at Cornwall Council and I know from my regular meetings with local leaders of our health and care system that work is underway to improve the situation.

First published in the West Briton 11/07/19.

Closing tax loopholes to fund our NHS

On Tuesday night the House of Commons voted down the Prime Minister’s EU Withdrawal Agreement.  The Prime Minister showed great statesmanship in the immediate aftermath of the defeat. She made a statement inviting the Opposition parties to table a vote of “no confidence” in the Government.  Jeremy Corbyn MP had previously threatened this but not delivered but on this occasion did accept the challenge. 

I hope the Prime Minister wins and on Monday she will make a statement setting out a plan that will enable MPs from all parties to work together to find a solution to the current impasse.  

I have a section on my website dedicated to the EU referendum and regularly update it. I am easily contactable and always happy to listen to or read the opinions of my constituents. 

Despite Brexit grabbing the headlines, my daily work for you continues at pace. Many and varied issues are raised with me during my weekly constituency meetings. Sometimes these require changes to a particular “system” and working with local people to do this is a rewarding part of my role, especially when I am able to help to bring about positive change.   

A good example was a local business person who told me how overseas sellers were undercutting his business by selling their products online and not paying their fair share of taxes. Having raised this with Treasury Ministers, HMRC has taken action and in 2016 introduced new powers that has enabled the collection of £200m lost VAT. HMRC recently reported issuing over 4,600 ‘red flag’ notices to online marketplaces such as Amazon, ASOS, Etsy and Ebay since 2016. 

The number of overseas businesses making applications for VAT registration has grown to 58,000, in comparison to just 1,650 applications between 2015 and 2016. 

These new rules protect thousands of local entrepreneurs as well as enabling previously uncollected taxes to fund our vital public services. This is just one tax avoidance and evasion measure amongst more than 100 introduced since 2010 that has generated more than £200 billion revenue. 

As regular readers know, I work closely with our local NHS leaders, doctors and nurses. During meetings with local GPs the impact of the increasing costs of indemnity insurance on their ability to provide local GP services was discussed. I raised these concerns with the Department of Health and after a great deal of work with the medical profession, I am pleased that a solution has been found. 

April this year will see the launch of the long-awaited government backed GP indemnity scheme. This was announced in October 2017 and will cover all practice staff performing clinical roles under a General Medical Services (GMS), Personal Medical Services (PMS) or Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) contract. 

The scheme will be free at the point of use and will cover all practice work, as well as extended and out of hours services. This will enable more GPs and healthcare professionals to work flexibly and improve the accessibility of healthcare services that we all depend upon.

First published in the West Briton 17/01/19

Investing in the future of our NHS

Ensuring the long term, sustainable funding of our NHS is one of the most pressing and potent political issues facing the country. Demand for NHS and care services only continues to rise as our population changes, as we live longer and new treatments and technologies are developed. 

The Government has worked closely with the NHS to agree a five-year plan of increased funding, with agreed additional investment of at least £8 billion in real terms throughout this Parliament. In addition, the Government has now announced that it will invest a further £20 billion by 2023/24 to transform health and social care so it can improve treatment and deliver better care for patients. 

More money than ever before is being spent on mental health services. I have worked alongside our local NHS to secure investment for a new specialist inpatient unit in Bodmin which is now under construction. This will mean that children and young people do not need to travel out of the county to receive vital care. 

Following the death of two students on the Penryn Campus who took their own lives after their battles with mental health issues, I have secured assurances from the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and local Clinical Commissioning Group that they will work with the University to provide more support to students who are experiencing mental illness. 

While investing more money into the NHS and securing Cornwall’s fair share is important, so too is ensuring it is spent wisely. So, I was pleased that the Government has recently set out plans to enable the NHS to make significant improvements in technology and purchasing. 

A new NHS app will be piloted in 5 areas in England from next month, ahead of a planned national roll-out in December. Patients will be able to download a test version of the app, allowing access to booking GP appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions, access to their medical record, 111 online access for urgent medical queries, data sharing preferences, organ donation preferences and end of life care preferences. 

More than £200 million will also be invested to make a group of NHS trusts into internationally recognised centres for technological and digital innovation. The funding will support new Global Digital Exemplars in acute, mental health, community and ambulance trusts in England to set a gold standard of innovation for other services to follow. 

A new HealthTech Advisory Board, chaired by Dr Ben Goldacre, will highlight where change needs to happen, where best practice isn’t being followed, and will be an ideas hub for how to improve patient outcomes and experience and make the lives of NHS staff easier. 

Our hospitals operate dozens of systems each that don’t talk to each other. GPs, social care, pharmacies and community care are on different systems. Systems crashing is a regular occurrence. The social care system is not at all integrated, when its integration is vital. 

The generic technology available outside the NHS is a million times better. Now is the moment to put the failures of the past behind us, and set our sights on the NHS being the most cutting-edge system in the world for the use of technology to improve our health, make our lives easier, and make money go further. 

A modern health service shouldn’t involve 234 separate trusts spending time and money negotiating different contracts and prices for the same thing. An example of this price variation includes the lowest priced 12-pack of rubber gloves costing 35p, while the highest priced cost £16.47. That’s why the Government’s work to centralise how the NHS buys goods and services is crucial. 

By streamlining the process and freeing trusts up from having to do this, we will save staff valuable time, save huge amounts of money and be able to reinvest the savings into patient care and frontline services 

The Department of Health and Social Care anticipates the new supply chain will generate savings of £2.4 billion over a 5-year period, all to be ploughed back into frontline services. 

 First published in the Falmouth Wave October edition

Rising Living Standards and Wellbeing

How does a country measure its success? The most reported measure of success is economic with gross domestic product (GDP) probably most often quoted. Of course ensuring people have the opportunity to reach their potential in their chosen occupation is important and this week’s good news of record levels of people from all backgrounds and ages in employment and growing wages is welcome. More of our children and young people are receiving a good education compared to 2010 and average life expectancy continues to rise. All these measure progress.

There is a growing recognition that how we are doing as a nation is at least as much about people’s well-being as it is about the country’s economic health.

In November 2010, David Cameron established the Measuring National Well-being (MNW) programme. The aim was to monitor and report “how the UK is doing” by producing accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation. Twice a year the independent Office for National Statistics report progress against a set of headline indicators covering areas of our lives including our health, natural environment, personal finances and crime.

The measures include both objective data (unemployment rate) and subjective data (satisfaction with job) to provide a more complete view of the nation’s progress than economic measures can do alone.

The latest update of the Measuring of National Well-being programme published in April provides a broadly positive picture of life in the UK, with most indicators either improving or staying the same over the short-term (one year) and long-term (five years). It shows the strengths and challenges of different age groups in society. These insights can help target services where they are most needed and can have the best impact.

This programme has led to significant positive changes in the development of policy, particularly the promotion of good mental health and a very welcome focus on understanding and treating mental ill health. We changed the law so that mental health is taken as seriously as physical health.

The fastest growing NHS spending is on mental health £11.86 billion last year, with further growth committed.  Spending by local GP NHS Commissioners on children and young people’s mental health services grew by £103 million between 2015/16 and 2016/17, up to £619 million. This is a 20 per cent increase year on year. I am pleased that our new residential children and young people’s mental health service in Bodmin is underway.

Last week, I visited Roseland Community College, an outstanding local school, and listened to children and staff who are participating in HeadStart Kernow. It’s a partnership between Cornwall Council, our local NHS, schools, voluntary sector organisations and the National Lottery. It aims to build resilience and mental wellbeing for children and young people and from what I heard is doing a good job. This vital prevention work matters to children now and in the future as the causes of mental ill health in adults often starts in childhood.

First published in the West Briton 17/05/18

Integration of Health and Social Care

Thank you to everyone who played their part in helping keep Cornwall warm, well and on the move during the recent very cold weather and storms.

Less noticeable but just as chilling as the recent weather is the further take over of our local Labour Party by the hard left. The resignation of the group leader on Cornwall Council follows others from across the country who describe bullying, intimidation, threats and anti-Semitism against themselves and colleagues who do not agree with the hard left Momentum, Corbyn’s support group within the Labour Party.

As Cornwall Council is led by Liberal Democrats, you may not think this matters too much to us locally. But it does. It is having a chilling effect on the decisions that the leadership of Cornwall Council need to take to improve our vitally important local public services.

Clear evidence of this is the press release snuck out by Cornwall Council last week while the Duchy was dealing with the impact of the severe weather.

The press release announced the decision of the Cabinet not to take significant action to improve our health and care system in Cornwall. They have chosen not to take the common sense step of joining up and integrating our health and care services. They will not support the development of a local Accountable Care System, despite the support of the leaders of our local NHS and care services and despite the success of this type of approach in other parts of the country such as Manchester.

Our whole health and care system in Cornwall is currently in “special measures” receiving additional help from NHS England to make the vital improvements we need to see. The past mistakes of Cornwall Council are well documented, poor social care commissioning, poor relationships with our local NHS and lack of integration of health and care services – all contributing to the current problems.

The Cabinet made one of the most important decisions that will effect every one of us – alone. Why did they not allow all our Councillors a say? Why no debate in public for us all to see? The Scrutiny Panel of the Council has been leading an Inquiry into a proposed Accountable Care System. The Councillors worked really hard with a wide range of health care professionals to inform their recommendations. Why is there work being ignored?

Why? Because the Corbyn led, Momentum controlled Labour Party is running a nation wide scare campaign against the creation of local Accountable Care Systems. They falsely claim this will lead to the privatisation and Americanisation of our NHS. The Inquiry into the Cornwall ACS investigated these claims and found that they were not true. However, our Lib Dem Council is running scared of making the changes that will improve services for local people because they are bowing to this pressure.

The leaders of Cornwall Council have put politics before people. Along with my Conservative Cornwall Councillors I urge them to rethink and enable the whole Council a say.

First published in the West Briton 08/03/18

Supporting high quality local journalism

Last year, as part of the BBC charter renewal process, I campaigned for greater investment in high quality local journalism. BBC Radio Cornwall and Spotlight do a great job but I think we need additional news reporting. As more decisions, including about public expenditure is devolved across the UK, including Cornwall, it’s more important than ever that the media hold to account local politicians and public services.

I am pleased that the BBC set aside £8m a year to pay for 150 reporters, who will work for local news organisations rather than the BBC. The three Devon and Cornwall journalists cover council meetings and public services and share their stories with the BBC.

Getting to the heart of an issue should be straight forward. After all, we live in an age when it has never been easier to communicate and more data is published by independent and trustworthy sources like the Office for National Statistics than ever before. The Parliamentary website is a mine of free, impartial, expert and topical briefings.

Robust high quality journalism is important for public scrutiny and underpins democratic debate – but as print circulations decline and more readers move online, the press faces an uncertain future.

So I am pleased that the government has recently launched a review that will look at the sustainability of the national, regional and local press, how content creators are appropriately rewarded for their online creations, and ensure that the UK has a vibrant, independent and plural free press as one of the cornerstones of our public debate.

Transparency about MPs work in Parliament has helped improve public scrutiny. Given that there isn’t an equivalent to the Hansard Report of everything said and voted on in Parliament, we rely on journalists attending and reporting on local council meetings to shine a light on proceedings. Cornwall Council has large budgets and increasing influence about the future of local NHS services, house building and economic development, yet while some meetings are webcast and some papers published, it lacks transparency.

While the three additional BBC funded local journalists are a step in the right direction, I think more should be done and hope that the review will enable more high quality local journalism.

Finally, in response to a letter published in this newspaper last week, I thought you would appreciate this update on the facts. I had secured the commitment from NHS England to review the formula used to allocate funding not only to local NHS commissioning groups but also for treatments in hospital.

I have requested data from the leadership of the RCHT to make the case for how the formula needs to change for the benefit of patients in Cornwall.

Along with my Cornish MP colleagues we did secure a change in the formula that allocates funding to our local NHS Commissioners that sees Cornwall receiving more than the England average per person. I am determined to secure the further change necessary so the RCHT receives its fair share of funding.

First published in the West Briton 22/02/18