It was a busy start to the New Year and new Parliamentary term last week. The Government announced its long term plan for the NHS which sets out how the £20.5 billion budget increase for the NHS will be spent over the next 5 years. There were some welcome announcements in the plan such as increased spending on mental health services and growing the number of generalists within the workforce. I am glad to see the clear focus on prevention – with £4.5 billion being invested in primary and community care - as well as the emphasis on personal responsibility and promoting good health. It is good to see a balance between steps to cope with increasing demand whilst also improving health outcomes.
However, we still need to see the long-awaited social care green paper and the workforce strategy which is due later in spring. It is disappointing the social care green paper has been delayed again as parallel support for the social care sector is needed. Getting these right is critical to successfully integrating and driving up standards in the health and care of the British public.
In my capacity as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Access to Medicines and Medical Devices, I was delighted to meet with the European Medicines Group last week to discuss key challenges the life sciences industry is facing and how we can encourage more investment in research and development. I look forward to working with the EMG to see how we can improve access to medicines for patients through innovation and improved access to market for life sciences companies.
The Public Accounts Committee last week took evidence on the continued funding of Clinical Commissioning Groups in the NHS. I was a lead Committee member questioning representatives from the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England, as well as representatives CCGs, including Dr Paul Johnson from South Devon and Torbay CCG. The Committee questioned why so many CCGs are failing to function effectively and increasing numbers are overspending against their budgets. We also looked at the current and future role of CCGs, examining how local health service needs will be protected.
On Tuesday, I met with Dr Michael Dixon and Dr Marie Polley to discuss social prescribing. Social prescribing enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. Its practice has been around for a while but has only really come to prominence over the last decade. Patients are referred to link workers who assess their needs and requirements before signposting them in the direction of local sources of support. These can includes places like a community gardening scheme or a swimming pool. Social prescribing brings multiple benefits to communities including reducing crime and providing skills to job seekers, enabling them to get jobs.
On Thursday, I met with Ian Trenholm, the new Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission (CQC). CQC are the independent regulator for health and adult social care in England. We discussed the CQC’s ‘State of Care 2018’ report, and what was being done to address the current shortcomings in regulations, especially in terms of adult social care. We also discussed the work of the Rural Health and Social Care APPG and the challenges patients face in accessing health and social care provision in rural areas. It is important that quality of care isn’t impacted by location, and the other challenges presented by rurality.
Over the Christmas break I was delighted to be formally reselected to represent the Conservative Party in Newton Abbot for the next General Election. When the time comes I very much hope to continue to have the privilege of representing the area as its MP.
My next surgery is on Friday 18th January at 11.30am in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.