Welcoming new investment into Cornwall

Our local NHS has been allocated up to £450 million to build a new hospital or to upgrade existing hospitals, or a combination of both. This money is in addition to the £135 million committed to upgrading some wards at Treliske and building a new women’s and children’s hospital there too. 

It is for our local NHS Health and Care service leaders, working together, to decide how best to use this funding and to develop plans to deliver safe and excellent services for local people. Funding is available to them right now to undertake this work. I am asking them to consider carefully how we can use some of this funding to upgrade Falmouth hospital. I think it is vitally important that frail elderly people or those with chronic health conditions that need regular treatment, receive care as close to their home, family and friends as possible. 

I am delighted that the Government has decided that this capital investment will be publicly funded and not through Private Finance Initiatives. The last Labour Government saddled so many public services, including local schools, with years and years of debt and ongoing charges that they have little control over.  

While buildings are important, ensuring that we have well trained and well-paid staff is just as important, so I am pleased that the day to day funding that our local NHS receives is growing each year.  Back in 2010 we did not receive our fair share of funding but now our local NHS receives just over the England average per person funding. 

This week the PM has also confirmed that, after we leave the EU, the funding that Cornwall currently receives via a number of EU funding streams will be replaced ‘like for like’ with the Shared Prosperity Fund.  Following the result of the EU Referendum I was determined to ensure that Cornwall would continue to receive the same level of funding as if we had stayed. This designated funding for Cornwall will be £400 to £600 million over seven to ten years. Cornwall will also be able to access all the other public funding steams. 

Decisions about how it will be spent will be made in the Duchy. I am determined that there is much less bureaucratic process, with more transparency and accountability in the design and implementation of the Shared Prosperity Fund than the legacy funding. 

This is exactly what I have been pressing the government for. All Cornwall’s MPs, along with our Local Enterprise Partnership leaders, will be meeting with the Treasury Minister to work through next steps. 

There has been good progress made in developing our local economy with more high-quality education opportunities and better paid fulltime jobs in sustainable businesses. We need to keep up the momentum that has been created and continue with investment into our infrastructure so that the talents and ambitions of people in Cornwall are unleashed and so that we can become one of the most prosperous regions, not the least, by growing our economy sustainably and inclusively. 

First published in the West Briton 02/10/19

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Welcoming another £450 million of investment into the local NHS

There is much good news to share this week. Our local NHS has been allocated up to £450 million to build a new hospital or to upgrade existing hospitals, or a combination of both. This money is in addition to the £135 million committed to upgrading some wards at Treliske and building a new women’s and children’s hospital there too.

It is for our local NHS Health and Care service leaders, working with the local community, to work together and decide how best to use this funding, to deliver safe and excellent services for local people. I will be asking them to carefully consider how we can use some of this funding to upgrade Falmouth hospital. I think it is vitally important that frail elderly people or those with chronic health conditions that need regularly treatment, receive care as close to their home and family and friends as possible.

The PM has also confirmed that after we leave the EU, the funding that Cornwall currently receives via a number of EU funding streams will be replaced ‘like for like’ with the Shared Prosperity Fund. Following the result of the EU Referendum I was determined to ensure that Cornwall would continue to receive the same level of funding as if we had stayed. This designated funding for Cornwall will be £400 to £600 million over seven to ten years. Decisions about how it will be spent will be made in the Duchy. Cornwall will also be able to access all the other public funding steams. This is exactly what I have pressing the government for.

There has been good progress made in developing our local economy with more high-quality education opportunities, better paid full time jobs in sustainable businesses. We need to keep up the momentum that has been created and continue with investment into our infrastructure so that the talents and ambitions of people in Cornwall are unleashed. So we can become one of the most prosperous regions not the least, growing our economy sustainably and inclusively.

While we can all point to local infrastructure such as the Eastern Breakwater in the harbour or to the local railway between Falmouth Docks and Truro, some of the EU investment is not so well known. I am determined that there is much more transparency and accountability in the design and implementation of the Shared Prosperity Fund than the legacy funding.

While Falmouth University has benefitted significantly from EU funding, I would like to see a partnership with Exeter Medical School that enables more medical research to happen here. This will benefit local people and make it easier to attract and retain doctors and other health related professionals in the Duchy. With new NHS funding for hospital facilities and the Shared Prosperity Fund confirmed, investment is available to enable this to happen.

While buildings are important, ensuring we have well trained and well-paid staff is just as vital, so I am pleased that the day to day funding our local NHS receives is growing each year. Back in 2010 we did not receive our fair share but now our local NHS receives just over the England average per person funding.

I have always believed that prevention is better than the cure, so I am delighted with the recent announcements setting out significant ambition and investment to protect and enhance our precious natural environment, leaving it in better condition for the next generation. What’s good for the environment is good for our health and wellbeing. While I very much support Cornwall Council’s Forest for Cornwall, it’s not enough. I don’t want you to have to get into a car to experience woodland. I am pleased that the Government has announced the extension of pocket parks funding. Existing parks that need new play equipment and landscaping such as the Beacon could benefit. Other small pockets of land that could be turned onto a natural space can too. I have written to our local town and parish councils to apply for this funding. Please let me know if I can help you and your community turn a scrap of neglected land into a natural oasis.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 02/10/19

Securing investment in our public services

I was delighted to sit in on a 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.   

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, but I will continue to fight for the resources that are needed to provide safe, high quality health and care services in Cornwall. 

I have also met with GPs and Public Health staff at Cornwall Council. While funding for our local NHS increases each year, and recent injections of cash for adult social care are welcome, we know there is more to do, especially with our community hospitals and achieving a long term, cross party solution to the funding of adult social care. As a General Election is in the air, please be assured that the NHS has no plans to close Falmouth Hospital. Sadly, some of my political opponents do run these scare stories. 

It’s not just our local NHS that is receiving additional funding, but our local police, schools and Cornwall Council. 

I have been working with Cornwall Council, to develop the Britain’s Leading Edge campaign that I helped to launch in Parliament in July. It has a simple premise: for the nation to achieve its potential every citizen needs the opportunity to realise theirs and that we need to unleash the economic opportunities of every region of England, not just those with a large city. The campaign demonstrates the systematic bias in public funding allocations that leaves regions without large cities receiving less funding than those that do. Now is the time to correct this historic bias.  

This is particularly important now as Cornwall and many of the English regions that make up Britain’s Leading Edge are already making great contributions to tackling the greatest challenge we face in climate change and habitat and species loss. Britain’s Leading Edge provides a significant amount of renewable energy and food for the nation. We have the potential to do more. I want to see Falmouth supporting a growing offshore floating wind industry.  

We are making progress.  Historically, Cornwall’s schools receive less per pupil funding than some others, so I am delighted that the f40 campaign, of which I am a member, has been successful. Our schools will be receiving more funding in each of the next three years. I pressed the government to communicate the actual amounts each school will receive and this should be announced in mid–October and I will publish an update on my website http://www.sarahnewton.org.uk 

First published in the Falmouth Wave October edition

Campaigning for affordable local housing

While Parliament is prorogued my work continues.  I have had meetings with a number of ministers on important matters.

It is essential that we redevelop existing buildings into high quality and genuinely affordable homes for local people, as well as building new homes for them. I very much support the reuse of land already developed rather than farmland.

We should have a range of housing choices to meet local peoples’ needs, from social homes to rent, to opportunities for local people to build their own homes as well as homes with support for people with long term health conditions and disabilities.

As regular readers will recall, I was instrumental in securing the £300m Community Housing Fund (CHF) that was announced in the 2016 Spring Budget to transform the community led housing sector and lead to the delivery of nearly 10,000 additional homes across the country by 2021. Money was allocated to 148 local authorities, roughly in proportion to the number of second homes and affordability issues.

Cornwall is a pioneering area for community led housing and it is a broad movement of Community Land Trusts (CLTs), Co-ops, co-housing communities and community anchors. Unlike traditional housebuilding approaches, they offer more than just resident involvement. They give local people the tools to build and renovate, manage and control the homes their community needs.

The Community Housing Fund is due to close in March 2020.  Likewise, bidding for the Homes England Fund will close in December 2019, just 18 months after it opened. Whilst interest is high and more than 16,600 homes are in the pipeline, very few groups have been able to submit capital bids in that short period and the pending deadline is deterring interest. It is essential that the Fund is extended so that those homes can be delivered.

I met the Housing Minister to make the case for her to use the budget increase delivered to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the recent Spending Round to extend the CHF.

For homes to be genuinely affordable they need to be affordable to heat as well as to buy or rent. I pressed the Minister to review building regulations to ensure all new homes are net zero carbon. Cornwall Council could make this a planning condition now but, as they are not doing so, changing regulations would ensure that this happens. Enabling people to live in well insulated, energy efficient homes is not only essential for good health and wellbeing but it makes a significant contribution to tackling climate change too.

In Truro, for many years now, I have asked Cornwall Council to enable ‘key worker’ housing for nurses, care assistants and other vitally important staff at Treliske who have modest wages and can’t afford Truro prices. This would help to attract and retain the staff that we need to deliver the health and care services that we all depend upon. I am pleased to report that this idea is now being pursued by Cornwall Council and already has the support of Truro and Kenwyn Neighbourhood Plan team.

First published in the West Briton 18/09/19

Welcoming investment in Cornwall’s voluntary services

This week some of Cornwall’s voluntary sector organisations, including Job Centre Plus, have been given a cash boost to roll out more of their innovative work. 

More young people across Cornwall will benefit from new mental health support including counselling, mentoring and arts programmes in their communities. This will be backed by a multi-million pound government investment this year. 

As part of the government’s commitment to transforming mental health care – backed by an extra £2.3 billion a year through the NHS Long Term Plan – £3.3 million was announced for 23 local community projects across England, with Young People Cornwall receiving £65,243. 

Young People Cornwall will expand their ‘Hear Our Voice’ project, set up in 1997, which provides children and young people (CYP) aged 11-25 experiencing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing with access to support through a range of interventions in non-clinical, school & community settings. Their expansion will employ two additional Well-being Practitioners (WP) who will be able to work with children and young people aged 8-10 years, supporting them at an earlier stage, before emerging mental health issues escalate or reach a point where statutory services must intervene. 

Earlier this year the government pledged to overhaul society’s approach to mental illness through better access to education, training and support. This included a commitment to train all teachers to spot the signs of mental illness in children. 

The funding will come from the Health and Wellbeing Fund, part of a programme of government investment in the voluntary sector. 

Mental health services are being transformed through the NHS Long Term Plan so that 345,000 more children and young people have access to mental health support by 2024, including via mental health support teams in and around schools. This will significantly improve early intervention and prevention. 

We know children and young people face many pressures at home and in their social and academic lives. Giving them easily accessible mental health support, providing them with the tools to manage their own mental health at an early age can help them thrive later in life. 

It’s only right that children and young people are able to access mental health support, not only through the NHS, but in the heart of their communities, schools and homes where they spend the majority of their time. 

A project pioneered by work coaches in Job Centres across Cornwall will have access to £100,000 more funding to continue referring people with mental health conditions to specialist one to one support, without the need for a GP or clinical assessment. Some people – for whatever reason – don’t want to be assessed in a clinical setting. 

The results of the pilot so far prove without a doubt that this approach works, with people supported by their work coaches and specialist support before their mental health spirals downwards. 

It’s good to see more local people receiving support to enable them to manage their mental health and get their lives back on track. 

First published in the West Briton 22/08/19

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.

Welcoming New Breast Cancer Clinic at the Mermaid Centre

From Monday, GPs will be able to refer patients to a new breast cancer clinic at the Mermaid Centre at Treliske Hospital. 

Clinicians at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) and NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (KCCG) worked together to launch the new clinic for anyone with a suspected cancer who needs to be seen and assessed. 

This latest modernisation initiative illustrates the continued aim for maintaining excellence through innovation, collaboration and adaptation to the changing needs of the community. 

The Mermaid Centre, which is recognised as a gold standard service, has been based at the Truro hospital for more than 20 years, and approximately 17,000 men and women are seen every year. Largely as a result of effective public health campaigns the numbers of people referred to the service are growing each month. 

Clinical leaders at Treliske say that these small changes have been designed to meet the recommended and safe best practice nationally and that they are vital for ensuring people receive the service they expect and need from the breast cancer service. 

I am sure that all readers of this column will have a friend or family member affected by breast cancer. My mother sadly died of breast cancer in her early fifties at a time when there were virtually no breast cancer services in Cornwall and patients had to travel to Plymouth. Since then survival rates have steadily and significantly improved. The services now provided are amongst the best in the country and I am pleased that clinicians say that more patients will be seen more quickly. Anyone who is diagnosed with breast cancer will begin treatment within 31 days of their diagnosis, and within 62 days of their original referral to the service. 

Ensuring that our NHS has the resources needed to provide excellent and safe care to local people remains my top priority and I am pleased that funding continues to rise each year. 

Mental health is just as important as physical health and is often interrelated so I am pleased that our local commissioners of services, the KCCG are spending more of the increasing money they are given on improving access to local services, more than the national average. 

We know that at the moment demand for some services outstrips supply. I understand that training new staff takes time and I am pleased that later this month a Mental Health Strategy for Cornwall will be launched. Healthwatch Cornwall is the independent and publicly funded body that is the voice of the patient and will be promoting public involvement with the strategy, so do look out for ways in which you can be involved.  

I have met with the KCCG and asked them to take a life course approach to promoting good mental health. From the birth of a child, through the stages of education into the workplace and towards the end of life. Partnership working will be key to improving wellbeing and health outcomes. 

First published in the West Briton 09/05/19