I was delighted to join church leaders at the National Parliamentary Prayer breakfast on Tuesday. My thanks go to Reverend Goddard, Minister of Kingsteignton Baptist Church, for joining me for the morning. The theme of this year’s breakfast was “building unity in a world of difference”, a subject on which the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, gave a very inspiring and uplifting speech in what are politically divided times.
On Wednesday, I enjoyed attending the Association of British Port’s (ABP) Annual Review launch in Parliament. One of the ABP’s accomplishments this year is that they are the first UK port operator to adopt personal protective equipment (PPE) designed for women. The rollout of the new PPE range follows an extensive employee consultation process and successful trials. It is also part of ABP’s wider commitment to Maritime UK’s Women in Maritime Charter, an initiative which ABP helped launch in September 2018 to promote the role of women in the maritime sector.
Last week, I was one of the lead members on the Public Accounts Committee questioning representatives from the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) about the effectiveness of current Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) arrangements. PCNs are given to those who claim a free prescription or dental treatment without a valid reason – whether fraudulently or in error. As a committee we repeatedly challenged the credibility of the system which has been accused of unfairly charging hundreds of thousands of people. I raised concerns that the NHS and DHSC are currently doing nothing to ensure that the system is easy to navigate and user friendly. Currently, the overly complicated nature of the system is causing massive distress to a number of people, which simply isn’t acceptable.
On Friday I was pleased to meet with Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of Devon’s Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) which brings together the county’s hospital trusts, mental health providers, local authorities, and NHS clinical commissioners. It was good to discuss the strategic aims of the STP over the coming years which include equity of access to services, excellence in service delivery, and improved health and wellbeing for communities.
It is essential that STPs put health and social care services in a stronger position in which to support the needs of local people. Improving health and social care in rural areas is a key priority of mine and I look forward to working with Dame Suzi to ensure continual improvement of local services for people living in Devon.
Last week, I also visited the National Modern Slavery Unit in Exmouth for a full brief on the ongoing work of the unit and developments in policy. The unit is at the forefront of the battle against modern slavery. It works to identify best practice across police forces up and down the country and to promote a consistent approach to tackling crime and supporting victims. It is shocking that modern slavery flourishes in this country but with the efforts of the unit in Exmouth I hope communities and the police can do more to help those who are abused and kept for the financial benefit of criminals.
University Technical Colleges (UTCs) play a vital and unique role in the education system, including locally in Newton Abbot. They enable pupils with a technical and STEM aptitude to follow an education path that gives them access to apprenticeships and jobs in the technical sector. Therefore, I was delighted to meet with Lord Baker, Chair of the Baker Dearing Trust, and former Secretary of State for Education, to discuss what can be done to encourage more young people to follow a career in STEM. It is absolutely critical that we train more people in technical subjects in order to deliver the ambitious industrial strategy set out by the government.
My next surgery is on Friday 26th July in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.