On Monday morning, I hosted a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Rural Health and Social Care looking at volunteering in rural communities. This meeting examined a number of areas including, what does best practice of community health and care volunteering look like in rural areas and what are the barriers and how can they be overcome? The panellists also explored what the challenges and opportunities facing volunteers and voluntary organisations in rural communities are.
Looking to the future, it is important that we discuss how the work undertaken by volunteers in rural communities can be better recognised and joined up with local public sector services. It was fantastic to see participants from a range of the different organisations across the country, including academics, healthcare professionals and representatives from the wonderful Totnes Caring.
The APPG also held the second session of its eight-part inquiry into rural health and social care this week, with an insightful range of contributions from witnesses. In a very welcome move, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has asked his department to explore the feasibility of a rural health strategy. Such a strategy would be a massive step forward in how health and care are understood in a rural context.
This week I was delighted to meet with Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices, the national coalition of health and care charities for England, this week in my capacity as Chair of the APPG on Access to Medicines and Medical Devices. It was great to discuss ways in which the APPG can work to further interests of patients and ensure the healthcare system provides person-centred care.
As part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, I greatly enjoyed visiting HMS Diamond in Portsmouth on Thursday with my colleagues. It was fascinating to learn about the ship’s capabilities and meet members of the ship’s company. HMS Diamond is one of the most advanced warships in the world and ships with this name have been in the service of the crown for over 400 years.
Network Rail has announced they are submitting plans for a new sea wall at Dawlish to Teignbridge District Council. This is a positive step forward for the railway line at Dawlish and I welcome their progress. The proposed new sea wall would be 7.5 metres high compared to the current 5 metre wall and would feature a wider and safer promenade. Plans for the wall consider current weather forecasts, as well as predictions of sea level rises for the next 100 years. Going forward the plan requires both planning permission and funding from Government which I am very confident will be forthcoming following my meetings with the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling.
With Network Rail now moving to submit the plans, Teignbridge District Council will now be able to formally consult the local community on the proposed designs. Continued engagement with the community on this is crucial to ensure that local views are taken on board and considered.
It was a pleasure to be able to highlight the importance of our railway whilst taking part in a Westminster Hall debate this week on Economic Growth in the South West. The debate, led by Sir Gary Streeter, saw twelve colleagues from the South West take part in a fantastic discussion that covered a range of issues. The South West economy is bigger than that of Greater Manchester and twice that of Birmingham, contributing £127 billion per year to the UK economy. The South West is a excellent place to live, work, and do business and attracts more visitors than anywhere else outside London. It is important that we continue to shout about the great things happening across the region as well as focus on improving our critical infrastructure.
My next surgery is on Saturday 16th February in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.