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

Advertisements

Remembrance

Like countless others, I spent time last week remembering the sacrifice of so many people who gave their lives or have been damaged defending our freedom and values. Values that we can too easily take for granted today.

The poignancy of participating in our communal act of remembrance is not diminished as the years pass. I am heartened each year by the increasing number of young people taking part, sometimes wearing the medals of their ancestors.

Next year we will commemorate 100 years of the ending of the First World War and plans to mark this special occasion are well underway. When a campaign for volunteers was launched in August 1914, thousands answered the call to fight. Among them were 250,000 boys and young men under the age of 19. A concert in Birmingham will remember their stories, they will be given a voice in words and music by 250,000 youngsters of today. What a memorable occasion that will be.

Some say our wearing of the poppy, participation in the collective acts of Remembrance or laying of wreaths is glorifying war. I disagree. It is essential that we remember and learn from the past. Sadly, there are always those at home and abroad who will seek to undermine or destroy the morals and values of our shared society, of freedom and justice, of compassion and fairness.

While we work for peace at home and around the world, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves and our allies. I am very grateful to members of our armed services who serve at home and abroad who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe. Their families too. I am also very grateful to the many local charities who support veterans and their families to recover from their experience.

First published in the West Briton

World Mental Health Day

Last week, I joined World Mental Health Day, in a global expression of how far we have come in understanding mental illness and breaking down stigma.

Last week it was reported that Local Clinical Commissioners spent £9.7 billion on mental health this year – £574 million more than last year.

The Cabinet also discussed plans to train a million people in basic mental health first aid skills – the first country in the world to have this scale of ambition. We will continue to invest in NHS mental health services, training more professionals, aiming to treat more people.

Applications were also opened for a new £15 million fund to improve support for people who experience a range of mental health conditions that put them at risk of experiencing an acute mental health crisis.

The Beyond Places of Safety fund is the successor to the original Places of Safety programme, which was established, alongside the Crisis Care Concordat, to confront one of the quiet scandals within mental health system – namely the thousands of people left in a police cell following a detention under the Mental Health Act.

Since then, the ingenuity and partnerships forged between statutory and voluntary organisations under local Crisis Care agreements has seen the number detained in police custody following a mental health crisis drop by over 80 per cent over the last five years.

Simple innovations – driven by passionate voluntary sector organisations, working in partnership with the NHS – are making a huge difference to how people are treated when they become acutely unwell. I hope that local organisations will work together and consider applying to the new Beyond Places of Safety Fund.

There may be no magic bullet to stem the rising tide of mental ill health – but innovative community initiatives can make a make a real difference to keeping people safe.

First published in the West Briton

Back to School

 

 

 

Preparing for the new session of Parliament this week reminded me of the times I spent getting my children ready for a new year at school. While they are grown up now, I recall the mixture of feelings that I share with parents, grandparents and carers as they see their children grow in independence at each stage of their learning.

So for all those children and young people starting school this week or taking the next step in your education, I wish you the very best of luck. Your families too.

Thanks to the hard work of local teachers, governors and the wider community that supports our schools and colleges, more young people here are receiving an education that is considered by tough, independent regulators, to be “good” or “outstanding” than in 2010. This is also due to the reforms to education that have given school leaders and the communities they serve more control as well as a determined focus on learning and teaching standards.

Regular readers will know that I have long championed change in the way in which funding is allocated to schools and colleges. I am as determined now as I have ever been to ensure that our schools receive at least their fair share of funding and that funding is based on the needs of the children. I am pleased that the Government has pledged real terms increases to the per pupil funding that local schools receive.

It’s not just young people who will be starting something new this month. More local employers and people of all ages are participating in a wide range of good quality apprenticeships. Earning while learning, apprentices aged 25 and over, and not in the first year of their apprenticeship, earn at least the National Living Wage, most receive more.

 

Helping the Rural Economy

In addition to my regular advice surgeries, one evening next week, I am also holding a Farmers Surgery, so please do get in touch if you would like to join me.

One of the things we will be discussing is the recently announced £200 million grant funding for rural businesses that will provide new support to expand and improve farm infrastructure such as buildings, machinery and access to broadband.

The current Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) is expected to generate 6,750 new jobs. Already more than 1,400 projects have been agreed which are expected to create over 2,300 jobs.

I want to see this funding enabling high quality jobs in rural communities across the Duchy.

This round of funding will include: £30 million to improve rural broadband – the grants available will encourage growth by helping provide broadband services at speeds of 30Mbps or faster where this is not available or planned. It will supplement existing Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport investment in rural broadband. £45 million to help rural businesses grow and invest in new equipment – rural businesses, including those engaged in tourism and food production, can apply for funding to invest in their company, helping them to expand, diversify, and invest in new technology. £120 million for projects that improve farm productivity – this money will help farmers, foresters and landowners manage their land more effectively. Funding will be available for a wide range of purposes, including woodland management equipment, creating on-farm reservoirs and using water more efficiently. A further £6.6 million will be available for animal health and welfare projects.

This funding is part of planned investment of at least £3 billion into our rural economies by 2020 under RDPE. All projects agreed before we leave the EU will be guaranteed for their lifetime.

Delivering a Fairer Society

Delivering a fairer society surely must start with education – making sure that our children and young people can do their very best and reach their potential, wherever they’re growing up. That’s the means by which we build a better country.

I believe opportunity is about how we translate hope into something real – something concrete. So for me creating opportunity for people is essential. Our strong economy is vital, because it’s the opportunity engine of our country. But we now need to make it a country where everyone has an equal shot at taking advantage of those opportunities being created. This is a government that wants more opportunity for more people – and more equality of opportunity.

I believe we are building that education system that unlocks the talents of people here. We’ve got the right ingredients: expert teachers, determined to unlock every young person’s potential. A society that believes in fairness and businesses that now more than ever understand how education and skills drive growth. We can unleash the wealth of latent talent that we have – and become a modern, confident and fairer economy. A country that works for everyone.

Our country has been on a long journey on education – not just on improving the quality of our schools, but on giving parents real choice where before there was none. When I was growing up here there was no real choice at all. You got what you were given. I went to my local comprehensive school in Falmouth because nearly everyone did. And in this system some people got a good education. I was lucky – I had a great form teacher Mr Morris, who encouraged me and inspired me. People never forget great teachers, because the impact they have on our lives goes beyond that of other people that we will go on to meet. But some people were left behind. We can never accept the randomness of a postcode lottery in education.

Thanks to the leadership of local head teachers, the Academy programme, started under the last Labour government and accelerated since 2010, as well as the hard work of local teachers, more local children and young people are now in ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools.

That’s why we will keep pursuing our ambitious reforms. On what children are taught, on making sure they are taught well, and on how schools provide them with the knowledge and skills they need in modern Britain. We want schools that work for everyone.

This is a bold plan for transforming education in Britain. Everyone needs to play their part. This is not an easy mission. But the potential gains are huge – for young people and for Britain. And if we unlocked the talent of every young person, it would have a huge impact on their wellbeing and the economy.

Because, in spite of their circumstances, everyone has a talent. And when we recognise the potential of every person, we recognise the potential of our country.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 23/08/17

Exam Results

It’s good to see so many local young people doing so well in a wide range of exams. Much appreciation must go to their teachers, family members and carers who supported them through their time at school and college, enabling them to participate in a wide range of high quality academic and vocational learning.

Young people who are unsure what to do next can contact the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900, via web chat, email or by searching online for the National Careers Service. The service offers free and impartial advice and access to a range of online tools, including skills tests, course search, job search advice and personalised help from careers advisers.

A good education is a key building block in enabling people to unlock their potential and support their wellbeing. It also provides choices for young people considering their options after their formal education ends.

Helping young people think about their options requires very skilled and experienced navigators.

So I am delighted that part of the devolution deal that Cornwall Council has with the government is improving local careers advice.

“The Cornwall Careers Offer” that will be launched later this month at the Eden Project is a strategic plan that aims to increase the understanding of Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance across both secondary education and businesses in Cornwall to enhance the skills and career prospects of local young people and support business growth.

“The Cornwall Careers Offer” draws on best practise across the country and includes the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Enterprise Adviser Network that brings together senior business volunteers working directly with school career leads to inspire young people about the world of work.

First published in the West Briton 23/08/17