Drugs Strategy

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

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Last week Cornwall welcomed inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission who jointly carried out an inspection of our local area. Under the Children and Families Act 2014, the government placed new duties on our local health, social and education services that provide for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

The inspection will evaluate how effectively the local area identifies the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities, and meets the needs of these children and young people so that their chances of participating fully in society improve.

Improving the lives of the most vulnerable people in our community is I believe amongst the most important roles of Cornwall Council. Our public services working effectively in partnership with local businesses and charities as well as families and carers is essential for improving lives. This is especially true when public finances are tight as we all want to see public funds spent on improving the opportunities for children and young people with special education needs and/or disabilities.

Central government has its role to play too and I am pleased that an ambitious project which will help support vulnerable children and families in Cornwall has been awarded almost £2m from the Government’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.

The project, developed by Cornwall Council in partnership with health organisations, is one of 24 projects across the country to receive funding from the Department for Education’s £200m programme which has been set up to encourage local authority children’s services to innovate their practice and the way they deliver services.

This new and additional funding will help transform the way education, health and social care services work together to better meet the needs of children, young people and their families.

First published in the West Briton 12/07/17

Health Services in Cornwall

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

NHS Investment in Cornwall

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.

Social Care Funding

The tragic loss of PC Keith Palmer was another reminder of the risks our police officers and members of our emergency services take each day keeping us safe. Leaving home each day for work not knowing what lies ahead. We are very grateful for their public service.

Thank you to the many constituents who contacted me last week asking after the wellbeing of my team and myself. Our overwhelming feeling was of sadness for the tragic loss of life and injury.

While the process has been painfully slow, following meetings in Cornwall last week, I am hopeful that local leaders of our NHS and care services are making progress in agreeing plans to improve our health and care services.

Each day, there are around three wards of people waiting in Treliske to go home or onto another care setting but can’t. Why, because of the continued inability of Cornwall Council to work constructively with care providers to enable them to safely leave the hospital.

The Liberal Democrat and Independent Councillors are in charge of Cornwall Council. They choose how to spend our money. They choose to spend less on social care than other councils despite the fact we have more frail elderly people than many places.

Along with my MP colleagues we have made sure Cornwall Council is receiving extra, new funding for social care – £12 million this year alone. We will do everything we can to ensure they actually spend it on social care so that people who have their care funded by the taxpayer or pay for it themselves have access to the support they need to enable them to leave hospital safely.

It is however down to Council Councillors to deliver the joined up service promised – the joined up service that other parts of the country have achieved.

First published in the West Briton 29 March 2017

Health Services

Winter is always a challenging period, and I want to thank all NHS staff and carers for their hard work and dedication. The NHS reported that, on the Tuesday after Christmas, it had its busiest day ever and that, earlier in December, it treated a record number of patients within four hours. Overall, A&E departments across the country are seeing 2,500 more patients within the four-hour standard every single day compared to 2010. The NHS made significant preparations for this winter, because winter is always a difficult time, including having 3,000 more nurses and 1,600 more doctors in full-time employment. Despite this effort nationally and locally, there remain problems we need to solve.

Having spent time in the A&E department at Treliske, shadowing the team there, I saw for myself the great job they are doing, often under considerable pressure. I also saw that many people who came along to A&E could have been cared for by their local pharmacist, Minor Injuries Department or GP. Despite the hard work of our local GPs, sometimes people wait too long to see their GPs. Sadly, the changes to the GP contract in 2004 resulted in 90% of GPs opting out of out-of-hours care. But we have been putting that right. Now 17 million people in England—about 30% of the population—have access to weekend and evening GP appointments. More than that, we have committed to a 14% real-terms increase in the GP budget by 2020. That is an extra £2.4 billion and that is expected to mean an extra 5,000 doctors working in general practice.

Ultimately, the issue of rising demand for NHS and care services is about demographic change and, as I have been saying for some time, more needs to be done to respond to that change. Over the decade to 2015, we saw a 31% increase in the number of people living to 85 and older. This is a cause for celebration, but sadly it is not matched by an increase in disease-free life expectancy. We know that when people of that age go to A&E at this time of year, there is an 80% chance that they will be admitted to hospital.

We also know that we will need to look after 1 million more over-65s in five years’ time and will need to continue to increase investment in the NHS and social care system. That is happening. But it’s not just about spending more tax payers money. It is about making smart decisions about how the money is spent.

The truth is that, to solve this problem, we need not only to increase the number of people working in general practice, which is why we are funding the second biggest increase in the number of GPs in the NHS’s history, but also to increase the number of carers and the support for family carers. Ensuring we have enough good quality care services is the responsibility of Cornwall Council. Cornwall Council need to address this and they and our local NHS leadership urgently need to get on with joining up the care they provide. This is happening in other parts of the country. This would prevent the ‘bed blocking’ we experience in Cornwall with all its dreadful knock on consequences, including cancelled operations.

As the local NHS consults on their plans for improving our local NHS and care services, I will continue to encourage the implementation here of successful approaches which have been developed in other parts of the country, where the joining up of services has improved outcomes for local people.

Sadly, as we approach the local elections in May, there is a great deal of scaremongering about the future of the NHS and talking down the considerable achievements that have been made. So let me set the record straight. We have more patients being treated and more saying they have been treated safely and with dignity and respect.

Next year the NHS will be 70 years old. I am determined to continue to ensure we have the safest, highest quality care anywhere in the world. When we have difficult winters and an ageing population, of course that makes things more challenging, but it also makes me more determined.

Published in the Falmouth Wave February 2017

A&E

It’s often said that A&E is a barometer of the health of our NHS. Despite the fact that since 2010 A&E at Treliske has been upgraded, across the country there are 1,500 more doctors in  A&E departments and 600 more consultants, with more people being treated safely and well, there remain problems to be solved.

Across the NHS, we have more than 11,000 additional doctors and 11,000 more nurses, so the pressure on the NHS is recognised. Indeed, we have 1,600 more doctors than this time last year.

Over the decade to 2015, we saw a 31% increase in the number of people living to 85 and older. This is a cause for celebration, but there has not been a matching increase in disease-free life expectancy. We know that when people of that age go to A&E at this time of year, there is an 80% chance that they will be admitted to hospital.

There is no doubt at all that we will need to look after 1 million more over-65s in five years’ time and will need to continue to increase investment in the NHS and social care system.

The truth is that, to solve this problem, we need to increase the number of people working in general practice, which is why we are funding the second biggest increase in the number of GPs in the NHS’s history. Cornwall Council and our local NHS leadership need to get on with joining up the care they provide while enabling investment in more, better paid carers. More support for family carers too.

Next year the NHS will be 70 years old. I will continue to everything I can to support NHS staff and carers to deliver the safest, highest quality care anywhere in the world.