We have seen a worrying increase in reports of attacks using acid or other similar substances as offensive weapons. Of course violence of any kind is unacceptable, but there is something particularly troubling about these kinds of attacks. Corrosive substances cause severe burns and serious tissue damage. All too frequently, victims’ lives are altered forever. Nobody should have to go through the kind of mental and physical trauma they suffer.
I have heard from victims and survivors, including from Truro, and they are at the heart of the new plan to tackle these appalling crimes that, as Home Office Minister, I announced in Parliament last week.
While mercifully there are relatively few attacks, I am acutely aware of this growing problem and I refuse to let those behind such attacks spread fear through our society. The law in this area is already strong, with acid attackers facing up to a life sentence. Meanwhile, by law, suspicious transactions involving sulphuric acid must be reported to police.
But there are ways we can and will improve. The plan I announced in Parliament is wide-ranging and a comprehensive cross-Government review of our response to this profoundly concerning phenomenon.
Earlier this month the Home Office, with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, hosted a conference which brought together a range of organisations and people united by a determination to make a difference, from law enforcement, from Government, from the medical sector, mental health experts and representatives of the retail industry. Because there is no one simple answer, this joined-up approach has informed this action plan.
And we need to make sure that when these attacks do take place, victims are given the care and support they need; from the initial medical response to giving evidence in court and throughout the recovery process.
Drugs destroy countless lives. They lead to crime, violence and disorder on our streets. They are one of the creeping and corrosive threats to our society that we must do more to tackle. But I am also determined to do all I can to protect the most vulnerable, who too often become the victims. I am proud to have played my part in the development of the Government’s new drug strategy which sets out how we will tackle the deadly impact of drugs, including substances like spice or fentanyl.
Drugs are illegal because they devastate lives. They are illegal because traffickers target vulnerable people all over the world and exploit their misery. They are illegal because of the agony caused by those solely focused on their next fix.
Last year, the Psychoactive Substances Act introduced a blanket ban on so-called ‘legal highs’, meaning back-yard chemists can no longer dodge the law by making small changes to the make up of dangerous drugs.
Being tough on drugs is vital, but it cannot be all we do.
It is vital we protect the vulnerable – to prevent them falling into the cycle of drug abuse and to help them turn their lives around. Doing so will spare countless families the agony of seeing a loved one’s life destroyed. It could save lives. And it will reduce the burden placed on our public services, in particular the police and the NHS.
While drug use is falling we are not complacent and are redoubling our efforts to prevent children taking drugs.
The new post of Recovery Champion will travel up and down the country, meeting NHS staff, police officers, teachers, community groups and local authorities, who all have a vital role to play in enabling people to live their lives free of drugs.
First Published in the West Briton 18/07/17
Last week I returned to my weekly routine of spending Monday to Thursday in Westminster and Friday, Saturday and Sunday working for my constituents in Cornwall. I met with constituents to discuss support for local small businesses with the Federation Small Business and Cornwall Council transport to go through plans for our new train services and road improvements, including the A30. I enjoyed meeting voluntary community groups at the Perranporth Memorial Hall.
I also met with the Chief Executive of the RCHT to discuss the recent CQC report of an unannounced inspection of Treliske in January. One of my top priorities remains supporting our local NHS and care services. The Chief Executive told me that the full CQC inspection in July is an opportunity to demonstrate the action taken to improve and to provide the evidence that the trust’s care is safe and effective.
It’s important to note that urgent and emergency care services have improved their CQC ratings and shown their professionalism under pressure. Other parts of the report are very disappointing reading but the Chief Executive assured me that since the January CQC inspection, measurable improvement in areas such as emergency care, sepsis, mortality and stroke have been made.
The trust have just received the latest inpatient survey published by the CQC and seen good scores in important areas including, confidence in doctors and nurses, feeling safe and well looked after and treated with respect and dignity.
The very significant issue of delayed discharges remain and I have written to Cornwall Council to seek assurances that the considerable additional funding that they have been given for adult social care, £12 million alone this year, will be spent to tackle this issue. The delayed discharge of patients is not good for patients and leads to delays in planned surgery.
First published in the West Briton 19/06/17
It’s really important to me that mental and physical illnesses are treated equally. So I am delighted that after years of hard work the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has secured the funding for a new child and adolescent mental health unit that will be built in Cornwall following an announcement made by NHS England last week.
This news means that for the first time, children and young people in Cornwall will have access to specialist mental health beds in county. The new 12 bed unit will accommodate young people up to the age of 18. Previously children from Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly had to travel out of county for this kind of service. The ability to regularly see family and friends while in hospital is a key element in people’s recovery, and especially in the case of children.
The Trust will build the new unit on land adjacent to Bodmin Hospital where it will benefit from close links to the Trust’s other specialist mental and physical health services. It is hoped that building work will begin in Spring 2018.
I am also delighted that NHS England is funding new mental health facilities for local mums suffering post natal mental illness. While the location has yet to be decided, it will be much closer to home than current specialist services. This builds on the new service introduced into Cornwall in 2013, following the campaigning and support of the Angela Harrison Foundation.
NHS England has also offered RCHT funding for a fully-staffed team operating 24/7 in hospital, offering a one-hour response to emergency mental health referrals in A&E.
Ensuring all young people have good mental health is important. I am determined that all parents and schools have good links to advice and services.