Friday, 23 June 2017

Armed Forces Day is tomorrow - a chance to show our support for all our troops

Armed Forces Day
Saturday 24th June is Armed Forces Day, and events will be taking place all over the country to celebrate and show our support for everyone in the Armed Forces community. The Armed Forces, including our own Albemarle Barracks, do an excellent job protecting us and Saturday will be a great chance to show them and their families how much we appreciate them.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

My demand for reopening of the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital



Below is a copy of my letter to Northumbria NHS Trust Chairman Alan Richardson, calling for the reopening of the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital, ahead of a meeting to discuss the matter later today.

"I wish to reiterate my case very strongly for the reopening of the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital.

As you know, I have had extensive meetings and discussions with NHS staff, managers and key Directors of the NHS Trust during several recent visits to the local hospital facilities at Hexham, and also at Cramlington.

However, I would like to make my case for the reopening of the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital with 5 very specific reasons:

1. Firstly, maintaining an overnight walk-in facility is what the Trust, the Board and senior managers have made clear would happen on a repeated basis. When the Cramlington proposal was first suggested and consulted upon in 2008 I was not the MP. But, at that time, and on repeated occasions since, it has been guaranteed that a 24 hour facility would stay at Hexham. That assurance has been made to myself as the prospective candidate in 2009, before I was elected in 2010, and on several occasions since by Jim Mackey and other managers.

2. The exceptional circumstances that arose last Winter/Spring, which particularly caused the problems, have been addressed after a change of approach, not least with the improved admissions system and better working practices with the ambulance service. The situation has now changed dramatically in terms of the way the site is run, how ambulances are dealt with, and the evidence shows that admissions are clearly much faster and managed better.

3. I understand that, in addition to these measures, 65 additional nurses have been recruited at Cramlington to address the problem. From speaking to staff at Hexham Hospital last Friday morning it is now the case that nursing staff from Hexham no longer fill any overnight staffing gaps at Cramlington, and are only being used in the daytime.

4. The retention of the Hexham team and the overnight facility is little different to the cost of sending the same nurses to Cramlington. There may be a difference in the usage of their time at the two hospitals; however, there is no difference in cost, so this cannot be justified on any efficiency grounds. Furthermore, the cost to patients has to be borne in mind. Travelling late at night to Cramlington from rural Tynedale is a significant expense when compared to the cost of attending Hexham.

5. Fundamentally, there can be no doubt that this 6 month temporary closure of Hexham Hospital is also causing the Northumbria NHS Trust reputational damage - and this comes at a time when I know that, actually, both hospitals are doing very well. The creation and expansion of the Elderly Assessment and Ambulatory Care Unit at Hexham Hospital has been transformational in the numbers of elderly patients treated locally, rather than being treated in Cramlington. The success of the elective surgery and cancer treatment, for example, is rightly praised very highly and highly valued by residents. But these successes are being blighted by your temporary decision on overnight facilities.

Put very simply, a promise was made by the Trust that 24 hour care would continue at Hexham Hospital and that promise has to be honoured, especially given the clear changes in circumstances at Cramlington which now make that possible.

I have already explained my position and my approach on several occasions to key Trust representatives over the last 6 months, but agreed to produce a short letter for you and the NHS trust board, in writing. If you wish to discuss this further I am, as ever, more than happy to do so."

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A new Parliament, Queens Speech, and addressing votes of conscience

Today, Her Majesty the Queen opened Parliament with a host of proposed new laws. There are 27 Bills, with many of them designed to prepare the UK for a "smooth and orderly" exit from the EU.

Of the 27 bills, eight relate to Brexit. The other main non-Brexit proposals include:
  • a Civil Liability Bill, designed to address the "compensation culture" around motoring insurance claims
  • a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, establishing a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner to stand up for victims and survivors and monitor the response of the authorities
  • a Tenant's Fees Bill, banning landlords from charging "letting fees"
  • a High-Speed Two Bill to authorise the second leg of the rail link from Birmingham to Crewe
  • A Data Protection Bill to strengthen individuals' rights and introduce a "right to be forgotten".
  • An Armed Forces Bill allowing people to serve on a part-time and flexible basis

A new Parliament also often brings a number of conscience issues; such matters are often decided by free votes. In addition, there were specific single issue free vote queries which were raised during the election campaign. I have set out below my views on some of these issues, many of which I have previously blogged about.

Same-sex Marriage - I campaigned for and voted for this legislation and always will support it. Click here to read my blog post from the day we passed the Bill in Parliament.

Abortion Laws - I would not support any changes to to the present law, to restrict abortion.

Mitochondrial Donation - I have campaigned for, and voted for, and remain supportive of Mitochondrial Donation. Click here to read more from the vote at the time.

Assisted Dying
- I am in favour of an Assisted Dying Bill, as a safe evolution of the law, with stringent safeguards. Click here to read my blogpost on the most recent attempt to pass a bill on this issue.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology: I am in favour, subject to suitable legislation.

Fox Hunting - I would not support a repeal of the Hunting Act.

The Paris Agreement - I support + voted for the Paris Agreement. I acknowledge man made climate exists and support action to tackle it. Click here to read my blog post discussing climate change with constituents. 

Stem cell research: I am in favour of stem cell research to cure the diseases / illnesses we face.

House of Lords: I am personally in favour of elected second chamber and supported the House of Lords reform bill when it came before parliament in the Coalition government's time.