Last week, the Minister for Loneliness, Tracey Crouch MP, launched the government’s strategy for tackling loneliness in England. Loneliness is one of our most pressing public health issues, with it often being linked to early deaths and it remains an acutely prevalent issue in rural communities. Isolation is also linked to the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, depression, cognitive decline and an increased risk of Alzheimer's. It’s estimated that between 5% and 18% of UK adults feel lonely often or always. I welcome the additional £20million of grant-funding that has been secured for work to bring communities together to tackle loneliness.
On Monday, I met with Dr Darren Clark and Richard Stone from Medilink, the industry association for the life sciences and medical technology sector, to discuss how we can simplify interactions between Small and Medium sized Enterprises in the medical technology sector and the care system across England. The life sciences industry is an undoubted success for the UK economy and should remain a priority for the government given the exponential growth of an ageing population and the technological advancements that make innovative medical interventions possible.
The Public Accounts Committee last week took evidence on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ progress on implementing the UK’s exit from the European Union. I was a lead Committee member questioning representatives from the department on issues such as food imports and chemicals. It was worrying to learn that while Defra have developed detailed plans for 35 of its 43 work streams, only six of these are currently complying fully with its planning standards. I also raised the issue of the approval for marine control and enforcement being delayed and was pleased to hear that the department have launched work to recruit additional staff and also boost their sea and aerial surveillance capability.
It was frustrating to see the railway line having to be closed last week between Exeter and Newton Abbot due to the damage done to the line at Teignmouth by Storm Callum. Thankfully, despite battling the elements, the team from Network Rail were able to get on site and reopen the line within 24 hours. Also disappointing was the closure and severe delays at Paddington on Wednesday due to damaged power cables. By Thursday morning, Network Rail had repaired much of the damage and were operating a near full service.
Furthermore, I am pleased to see Network Rail have started work on their three priority development plans for safeguarding the railway line between Exeter and Newton Abbot. The £15 million in funding I fought for is being spent on developing options for the railway between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth, designing a new sea wall at Dawlish, and developing plans for cliff stabilisation and rock fall shelters between the tunnel portals.
I was delighted to host the national launch of the new National Centre for Rural Health and Care, welcoming a range of attendees from across the health, social care, education and policy sectors. Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England delivered a brilliant keynote address and the launch was also an opportunity to learn more about the various projects taking place in rural communities up and down the country. The centre has already started work to bring about improvements in healthcare delivery in rural settings, through research, better use of data, workforce developments and improved technology.
On Friday I met with the Community Landing Site Development Officer, Toby Russell from the Devon Air Ambulance Trust, to discuss Community Landing Sites within the constituency. The DAAT are working with communities to develop a network of surveyed floodlit community landing sites, which will enable them to bring a life-saving service into the heart of those communities when it is dark.
My next surgery is on Friday 16th November at 2pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.