Last week in Parliament I was involved in legislation that will make a positive contribution to the success of the port of Falmouth for years to come. Thanks to the close working relationships that I have established in the port, I am able to make sure their local knowledge and experience is informing policy emanating from Westminster or the European Union. Achieving the right balance of protecting and improving the environment while enabling successful port operations to continue remains an important part of each week in Westminster.
As does supporting our local NHS. While I firmly believe that decisions about the day to day operation of the NHS should be made by those leading the NHS in Cornwall, working closely with staff and partners, I do get involved both to support and be a critical friend where I need to be. This is when I am representing the concerns of my constituents as either patients or staff.
While the Coalition has not cut the NHS budget, despite Labour and the Lib Dems advocating such cuts, the growth in demand in services is creating tough challenges for managers of our NHS. The Royal Cornwall Hospital has made strides forward in improving patient safety and care while better managing its finances. I congratulate them for those improvements and will continue to do what I can to help.
However I am very concerned from meetings I am having with nurses across the NHS about their fears for potential changes to their wages and working conditions. Sadly, because of poor planning decisions taken some time ago about the number of nurses that would be needed in Cornwall, not enough have been trained. We have seen the consequences recently with difficulties in trying to recruit and retain nurses for local hospitals.
I am very concerned that nurses in other EU countries, with governments that are not taking the difficult decisions necessary to get thier economies onto a stable footing, with the consequence of dreadfully high unemployment, will come over to work in our NHS. They are so desperate they will work for lower wages. If I were them I would do the same to support my family.
While the Government, despite the protestations of our Coalition partners, has clamped down on non EU immigration, thanks to the last Labour government there is currently nothing we can do at the moment to limit people from other parts of the EU coming to work here. Although this is now being actively looked at.
I don't think it is right for NHS managers to balance their books by cutting wages for front line and often modestly paid staff - nurses, care assistants and technicians. Unsurprisingly, experienced nurses and other staff will leave to earn more money elsewhere leaving the hospitals to recruit staff from overseas. This is not good for patient safety and it is not fair on nurses and care assistants who have often contributed to the cost of their own training and who would rather stay in the NHS.