Spending some time back in Redditch during recess has been an opportunity to work on some of my election campaign pledges.
1. The Alex
The Alex is my number one priority, and we’ve seen some turbulent times recently within the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust which runs the Alex and Worcestershire Royal that we use in Redditch.
So I’ve invested considerable time and energy visiting the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, to see at first hand the situation on the ground, talking to front line NHS medical professionals and also health leaders.
We all want our Trust to be coming out of special measures quickly, so that we can get the service we deserve, and the wonderful caring staff can work in a well managed organisation with confidence over their future.
I know that the vast majority of people who visit the Alex, or who are treated in Worcester, receive excellent care within a short period without waiting too long, delivered by excellent, caring and compassionate staff. There is, however, a minority where things go wrong and this isn’t good enough. I want to see all patients have a good experience.
I’ve held a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament, and have also raised our healthcare issues on the floor of the House of Commons repeatedly. Department of Health ministers confirmed that my commitment to this issue helped re-secure the £29m investment that has been prioritised for our area, and has put it ahead of other parts of the country who are included in the NHS England scheme.
We will see work starting in due course to open new wards and facilities at Worcester, alleviating some of the pressures on that hospital, which has caused some of the problems there.
I want to see our hospital management tackle the challenges pro-actively, and have held many meetings with them to reflect the voices and views of Redditch people. I have regular meetings and updates with Michelle McKay at the Trust, and others from groups of GPs to the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
2. Hospital Transport
When services were centralised to Worcester, the CCG arranged a trial of a free hopper bus, which was extended to last for one year.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been well used, and it has been decided that its not a good use of NHS and taxpayers’ money which could be invested in front line services.
I campaigned for transport to be continued, to support those who don’t own cars, who are disabled or find it hard to travel to Worcester. During my election campaign I had hoped this would be a continuation of the hopper bus, and I did make that one of my pledges in my 12 point plan. However, since my election I have spoken to many groups as well as the people who actually used the service. It would be wrong of me to stick rigidly to the letter of my 12 point plan and refuse to change it in light of new information and, frankly, a better offer that still upholds the spirit of the pledge.
So I am delighted that there will be a door-to-door Community Transport service starting in early September, which will a service that residents can request at a time to suit them. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this service to ensure that its well publicised and that those who really need it can access hospital appointments.
There will be a small charge for this service, but on balance I think this is reasonable, for a personal, door-to-door service that can be ordered on demand.
3. Local Business
I spoke in Parliament about the importance of supporting our Redditch entrepreneurs, those businesses who create good jobs locally. In September, I’ll be holding the first of my business leaders summits, to launch my support group for local businesses. If you are interested in joining, please contact me.
I was also delighted to be elected by my colleagues in Parliament onto the influential Business, Industrial Strategy and Energy Select Committee.
This will enable me to play an active role shaping the government’s approach to business and the economy through Brexit and beyond.
4. Mental Health
I’ve been concerned about mental health and the support available locally. I’ve made it my mission to support local services, and help join up services.
I spoke in Parliament to highlight the work of our excellent local community services and charities, covering a wide range of needs. Mental health is a complex issue, that affects individuals in an unpredictable way – all are different and there are different causes, so there must be a response that is flexible and holistic for each person.
That’s why local groups such as Victim Support, Sandycroft Centre, Redditch Nightstop, and Headgym all play a key part and can be accessed by vulnerable people at various trigger points in their lives.
Another important role is played by the work that is going on to understand the tragic causes of suicide that is seen in our town. It is important to know that the suicide rate in Redditch is relatively low and has been stable for some decades; still one suicide is still one too many and all need to work together to address the issues before they become so serious they cause an individual to take their life. There is much good work going on here led by the public health team.
I welcome the Conservative government’s recent announcement to invest in 21,000 new mental health workers, and I know that they will be needed in our local services, where demand is rising due to better understanding and reduction of stigma over mental health.
I have held several meetings with local service providers, charities and community groups to understand the provision here in Redditch and the challenges they face. One very productive meeting was with Rev Robin Baker at the Ecumenical Centre. He is one of the many unsung heroes of our town who do so much to help the vulnerable and disadvantaged.
5. Support for farmers
I’ve engaged extensively with our local farmers who play an important part in our constituency’s economy. They have raised several concerns about Brexit with me, including those covering food standards.
No-one wants to see our standards eroded after Brexit, or our markets flooded with cheap imported food with lower animal welfare requirements.
Speaking in Parliament, I questioned Environment Secretary Michael Gove what assurances he was able to give Redditch farmers that they would be covered by rigorous protections after Brexit, and I was pleased to hear that he intends that our future trading deals will prioritise animal welfare and environmental standards. I’ll be keeping this issue high on the agenda through my work scrutinising the Great Repeal Bill.
As ever, if you would like to contact me on any issue, please don’t hesitate to email [email protected] or use the contact form on my website.