Delivering improvements to our NHS

Last week I met with local people and representatives of Unison to discuss our local NHS. We all want to see improvements in our local NHS and care services.  

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

These will build on the £20 billion long-term plan to transform health and social care so it can improve treatment and deliver better care for patients. 

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 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 West Briton 13/09/18


Making mental health a priority makes good business sense

An estimated 300,000 people lose their job every year because of a mental health problem. Many might have remained in employment had they been given the right support.

Earlier this week I spoke at a CBI event to welcome the launch of Front of Mind, their new good practice guidance which helps employers improve health and wellbeing in the workplace.

People with mental health conditions can make a valuable contribution in the workplace. We need real cultural change in every workplace across the country to prevent valued colleagues leaving a job they love because of mental health problems.

For employers this can feel daunting. Mental health charity Mind found that while employers want to make mental health a priority, a third don’t know where to go for information or guidance.

That’s exactly why practical resources like Front of Mind are so important. Highlighting examples from UK employers that are already leading the way, the guidance shows that successful businesses are taking key three steps: prioritising health and wellbeing from the top, targeting action towards early interventions and embedding good health and wellbeing in workplace culture.

Not only does Front of Mind offer practical tips for employers, it also demonstrates the business case for making progress on workplace mental health.

The impact of mental health issues costs UK employers between £33 billion and £42 billion every year. Clearly, making mental health a priority in your workplace is not just the right thing to do – it also makes good business sense.

We don’t expect employers to do this on their own. Government has an important role to play in supporting people with a mental health condition. We’ve made good progress, with a range of support on offer. Spending on mental health increased to a record £11.86 billion last year, with a further investment of £1 billion by 2020/21.

On employment support, we’re investing £115 million in partnership with the NHS, more than doubling the number of Employment Advisers in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Services. Our new Work and Health Programme is investing £500 million in tailored employment support, helping disabled people and those with health conditions into a job. And our Access to Work scheme has a specialised mental health support service, which has supported over 12,000 people. More than 90% of people who have used the service were still in their job after six months.

I want to encourage senior managers and business leaders to make a real, tangible commitment to improving workplace culture around mental health. This isn’t an issue for other businesses to deal with, or something we can leave HR to worry about. The leaders of any organisation are pivotal in shaping its culture, and exemplary behaviour has to start at the top.

My vision is of a society where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and no one loses their job because of poor mental health. It’s now time for every leader in every sector to take responsibility for creating an environment in which people feel able to talk about their mental health condition and get the help they need to thrive at work.

First published in Business Voice

Welcoming strengthened community planning regulations

Fundamental to building the homes our community needs is ensuring that our planning system is fit for the future.

The recently announced revised national planning policy framework was informed by many local people who contributed. As a champion of Neighbourhood Planning, genuinely affordable homes for local people and enhancing our natural environment I have been frustrated by some of the planning decisions made locally that contradict them. I am pleased that the revised planning framework strengthens Neighbourhood Planning in a number of ways.

Refocusing on the quality and design of proposals which are in line with what local communities want, the framework ensures councils have the confidence and tools to refuse permission for development that does not prioritise design quality and does not complement its surroundings.

With an emphasis on engaging with communities and allowing residents to see proposed development before it’s even built, the new framework encourages councils to make use of innovative new visual tools to promote better design and quality, which will also make sure new homes fit in with their surroundings.

Adopted neighbourhood plans will demonstrate clear local leadership in design quality, with the framework allowing groups seeking such plans to truly reflect the community’s expectations on how new development will visually contribute to their area.

Whilst the framework sets the strategic direction for driving up new build quality, it will remain up to councils to apply these polices in the most appropriate way in their area, recognising that they are well placed to know their area’s unique character and setting.

The revised framework has also been updated to provide further protection for biodiversity; ensuring wildlife thrives at the same time as addressing the need for new homes.

Changes to the framework see the planning system align more closely with the 25 Year Environment Plan. This plan, published in January, aims to leave the environment in a better state for future generations than it was when the Government took office.

It provides strengthened protection for ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees across England, ensuring they can be retained for the benefit of future generations, whilst giving councils real flexibility to make the most of their existing brownfield land.

To help tackle unaffordable house prices in many areas, the framework sets out a new way for councils to calculate the housing need of their local community, including different forms of housing, such as older people’s retirement homes.

This new methodology aims to deliver more homes in the places where they are needed, based on factors including the affordability of existing homes for people on lower and median incomes.

In addition, to make sure that the necessary infrastructure and genuinely affordable housing is delivered to support communities, clearer guidance for both developers has been published, meaning that developers will know what is expected of them up front, even before they submit a planning application and councils have greater power to hold them to these commitments.

First published in the West Briton 09/08/18

Promoting equal access to our maritime environment and securing jobs at Falmouth Docks

The summer months more than others bring us closer to our stunning maritime environment and heritage. The recent glorious weather has enabled many more people to experience the simple pleasure of going to the beach or out onto the water. Thanks to many inspirational local people determined to build an inclusive community, more people are able to enjoy these simple pleasures. People with visible and invisible impairments and disabilities are able to get onto the water thanks to Mylor Harbour’s Sail-ability specially adapted boats. Also based in Mylor Harbour is BATs, Cornwall’s sailing club for visually impaired people.  I recently met with the Helford Sailing Trust to learn about their ambitious plans to get more people afloat.

Then there are the special sand chairs at Gyllingvase beach that enable wheelchair users access to the beach and the sea. Cornwall Mobility, in partnership with Disability Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, works with Cornwall Council as well as a diverse range of coastal charities and businesses in providing all-terrain wheelchairs, also known as sand chairs, for the public to use on a number of beaches in Cornwall.  The all-terrain wheelchairs have been designed for outdoor use and have large inflatable wheels which allow them to roll over sand and pebbles with remarkable ease. This has allowed people with mobility challenges the pleasure and freedom to access and enjoy Cornwall’s beaches where they may have found it more difficult in the past.

While the wide range of recreational water-based activities available are undoubtedly fun and good exercise as well as enhancing our local tourist economy, they do bring challenges. I was delighted to open the newly refurbished National Coast Watch look out in Gerrans recently.  Staffed by volunteers who work in partnership with RNLI and Coastguard volunteers as well as our local emergency services coordinated by the Falmouth Coastguard, they help keep us safe on the sea and around our shores and rescue people if necessary. Together they provide an excellent service in promoting safety of the water and preventing harm.

Thank you also to the Royal Naval Association for organising the annual Falmouth Sea Sunday, including the parade from the Moor, a service in King Charles the Martyr Church and a parade to Events Square.

My grandfather was an electrician at the docks in Falmouth and, having grown up here, I understand how proud many local people feel about our close association with seafaring and the Royal Navy. When I was first elected I had the privilege of joining the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme with the Navy. As someone who has not served in our armed forces, this first-hand experience has proven invaluable in my role as an MP supporting our armed forces.

As A&P is one of the largest private sector employers in Cornwall, ensuring that A&P Falmouth secures and wins naval and RFA contracts has been a top priority. By working hard and constructively with both the management and trade unions at A&P Falmouth I am proud of our record of achievement. Not only do RFA ships continue to be serviced and maintained in Falmouth, but we won a new and important contract to weaponise some of the support vessels for our two new aircraft carriers.

A&P Falmouth is working in partnership with other UK yards and doing well in advancing bids to secure additional defence contracts for the docks in Falmouth, including for the new Type 31 e frigate. I have launched a campaign for one of the new frigates to be called HMS Cornwall. I ensure that Defence Procurement Ministers visit A&P Falmouth to see at first hand the excellent work that is undertaken and the positive relationship that we have with the Royal Navy and RFA.

Since being elected I have consistently promoted the industry and was delighted to have secured A&P Falmouth’s involvement with the independent review of British Shipbuilding undertaken by Sir John Parker. All the recommendations he gave to the government for future modernisation and investment have been accepted and I am delighted that the importance to our economy of ports, including Falmouth, is recognised.

I am proud of the investment this government is making in our Navy and that new ships are being built in the UK.  I want to see more and I will continue to work with the unions and management at A&P to secure new contracts and welcome grey ships into our harbour.

First published in the Falmouth Wave August edition

Military Action in Syria

I face many challenges as your Member of Parliament, the most significant is deciding whether UK military intervention in another country should be undertaken. I fundamentally believe in our values enshrined in the rule of law and that, wherever possible, diplomacy should be used to resolve conflict. I know that any action has consequences, sometimes unforeseen, but so too does inaction.

This week we debated the recent decision to use military force to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability.

It is now almost 100 years since the treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons. We have seen nation after nation sign up to this global consensus. The universal abhorrence of chemical weapons and the programme of destruction of declared stockpiles is a considerable achievement.

In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of the Syrian regime – guaranteed to the process overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The National Security Council of the United Nations, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have seen a significant body of information that indicates that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties.

The Douma massacre is part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in four separate attacks since 2014.

The military action undertaken by the UK on Saturday was carried out to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their use. The legal basis for this intervention has been published. Many countries support this action. In degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capability the Prime Minister made her intentions clear – we want to do what we can to protect Syrian people from chemical weapons.

These carefully targeted and calibrated strikes minimising harm to Syrians were not designed to intervene in the Syrian civil war or to effect regime change.

At a time of understandable tension in our relations with Russia it has been important to stress that this action does not entail an attempt to frustrate Russian strategic objectives in Syria. 
This does not represent an escalation of UK or Western involvement in Syria.

I don’t believe the global community can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Along with partners, and as members of the EU, we have tried non-military interventions, including peace talks and sanctions.

The UN has considered resolutions but Russia has repeatedly shielded the Syrian regime from investigation and censure, vetoing six separate UN Security Council resolutions, including the UN mandated Investigative Mechanism set up to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Of course we must continue our humanitarian and diplomatic effort to support the Syrian people and to secure a political solution to the civil war in Syria but we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons with impunity.

First published in the West Briton 19/04/18

Welcoming Government investment in the South West

The government has confirmed £866million of funding towards housing projects across the country last week, and it was great to see the South West receive a sizeable chunk of the pot.

Ten projects here in Devon and Cornwall were given over £55m towards vital infrastructure which will pave the way for thousands of much-needed new homes to be built more quickly.

The local projects to benefit, via the Housing Infrastructure Fund, are Hayle Harbour (£5.6m), West Carclaze near St Austell (£2.3m), North Prospect in Plymouth (£2.8m), Dawlish (£4.2m), Greater Exeter (£3.7m), Junction 28 of the M5 at Cullompton (£10m), the Eastern Urban Extension at Tiverton (£8.2m), Landkey near Barnstaple (£2m), the Southern Extension at Ilfracombe (£6.5m) and the North-South Relief Road at Axminster (£10m).

Elsewhere, five projects in Somerset received £28m and five in Dorset were given £16.5m. Across the whole of the South West, the government allocated over £140m towards 27 projects.

This investment in our region is most welcome as it will help to deliver the homes we desperately need and improve communities through good infrastructure. I am delighted that more social homes will be built too, delivering genuinely affordable home for local people.

Also last week, it was reassuring to read the letter by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling which confirmed that improving the rail line at Dawlish was his “number one national priority”, and that he was hoping for “a planned solution as quickly as practical”, backed by £15m of funding.

Mr Grayling made a number of other commitments regarding rail transport in the South West, including an instruction to GWR to draw up plans to introduce regular passenger services between Exeter and Okehampton.

He also confirmed track upgrades and maintenance, re-signalling between Totnes and Plymouth to enable more frequent services, £9m of funding to enhance the sleeper trains to Penzance, progress of flood resilience work at Cowley Bridge and on the Exeter to Waterloo line and an assurance to look at other ways to speed up journey times.

The improvements to Truro station continue with resurfacing and improved lighting of the carpark.

This summer we can all look forward to the introduction of new high-speed Intercity Express trains on the Great Western route, with extra capacity at peak times.

We shouldn’t forget that the government is also in the process of consulting on several major road upgrades in the South West, including a new section A30 between Carland Cross and Chiverton Cross in Cornwall, the A358 near Taunton, the A303 near Yeovil and the A303 near Stonehenge.

Once all the work is complete, motorists will have a direct dual carriageway or motorway route from Camborne to London and the South East, without the need to go via the M5 and M4 around Bristol.

Meanwhile, at the Budget in November the government committed £79m towards the planned £85m, four-mile link road between St Austell and the A30.

I am delighted that the Hall For Cornwall (HFC) has secured a £2m investment from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the last piece of public funding required to deliver a £20m rebuild of its venue which will bring jobs, economic growth and world class culture to Cornwall.

The exciting project will see the auditorium increase to 1,354 seats, enabling HFC to attract top West End productions, promote local talent and revitalize the night-time economy of Truro.

The LEP’s investment comes from the Government’s Local Growth Fund and will support the creation of 1156m2 of cutting edge workspace to nurture Cornwall’s booming Creative Industries sector. This sum is in addition to £2 million I secured from the Treasury. A Creative Tech Hub will include support for post-graduates, new talent and start-up businesses to create a new digital and creative cluster.  A further £2m of European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) has already been secured for this element of the project.

As Julien Boast, HFC’s CEO and Creative Director commented: “Cornwall deserves a theatre that will continue to inspire, educate and engage and bring the best productions in the country to Cornwall.”

I am delighted that this project will now be going ahead. It will be a major boost to the Cornish economy and culture and I am proud that this Government, along with Arts Council England, Cornwall Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) and, most recently, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have been able to work together to bring much needed investment to Cornwall.

The creative economy is growing, it already employs 27,000 people in our region and we want to be the destination of choice for creative businesses. The Creative Industries are now worth over £90bn to the UK and this growth is reflected in the Cornish economy, with the number of creative businesses increasing by 26% between 2011 and 2016. The redevelopment of HFC will create a cluster of start-up businesses that will nurture creative and entrepreneurial talent and, most importantly, retain it in Cornwall.

Work to rebuild HFC will begin in July 2018 with the new building being unveiled 2020. During construction, HFC will host a series of open days to welcome the community to view the build’s progression.

It’s great to see the government backing Cornwall and the South West.

First published by Peter Booth in the Western Morning News 12/02/2018

Talent for hospitality employers served by fine dining experience

Young people with learning disabilities have teamed up with four top chefs to prepare and serve a fine dining experience for hospitality leaders from across the South West. The dinner took place last Thursday evening at The Castle Hotel, Taunton, one of the most beautiful and historical 4-star hotels in the region.

The event enabled hospitality employers to experience the untapped talent their industry badly needs; a sector that is predicted to create more than 500,000 jobs in the next 5 years.

Workers with learning disabilities form a readily available employment group as one of the many hurdles they face is a far higher than typical unemployment rate – it stands at just 5.8% for paid work. By stark contrast 73% of Foxes’ leavers over the past 3 years (2015 to 2017) entered employment.

A joint partnership between Foxes Academy, (a hospitality and catering training hotel for young people with learning disabilities) and The Castle Hotel, employers were asked to pledge work opportunities and sign up to the Government’s Disability Confident programme.

The Castle’s Head Chef, Liam Finnegan has been an inspiration to the young Foxes’ students, aged between 17 and 25. He has encouraged them by offering work experience placements and taken on a Commis Chef with learning disabilities who trained in the hotel’s kitchen to NVQ Level 2 and was awarded ‘Outstanding Individual’ as part of Adult Learners’ Week.

The starter was prepared under the watchful eye of Philip Corrick, Executive Chef and Howard Bisset, Head Chef both with The RAC Club, Liam worked with the students to cook the main course and Werner Hartholt, Resort Development Chef at Butlins supported them to prepare dessert.

All Chefs kindly donated their time and ingredients to raise awareness with their peers about the economic and cultural benefits of employing a diverse team. Welcome drinks were generously provided by Exmoor’s Wicked Wolf Gin and Quantock Brewery.

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton, said: “We want to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027, and it’s crucial that the hospitality industry is not missing out on the skills, talents and personal qualities disabled people can bring to the workplace. “This event goes to show that there is a huge pool of talent out there, and I urge all employers across the industry and beyond to help ensure the opportunities are there for everyone to reach their full potential.”

Hospitality & Catering News would like to congratulate all of the ‘Foxes’ that took part, Sarah Newton and the Government’s Disability Confident programme, the chefs… Liam Finnegan, Philip Corrick, Werner Hartholt and Hoard Bisset. The Castle Hotel, Taunton, Exmoor’s Wicked Wolf Gin and Quantock Brewery and of course the whole team at The Foxes Academy.

We report all too often on the people and skills shortages in our industry, so we are delighted to report on the work done by The Foxes Academy and their partners. The training of young people with learning disabilities to prepare for and enter a career in hospitality and catering is much needed.

First published in Hospitality and Catering News 02/02/18