Of all the issues I deal with on a day to day basis for constituents I know that one is of particular importance to everyone in Truro and Falmouth - our local NHS.
Last week some of Cornwall's community hospitals such as Falmouth had to close some beds. It appears that this is due to difficulties in staff recruitment. The NHS locally has been making real improvements so this is a worrying set back. I have asked local senior managers to keep me updated on their actions to ensure sufficient staff are recruited and retained.
In recent months concerns about the service provided by Serco out-of-hours in Cornwall have also arisen. Thanks to members of staff who bravely came forward with their concerns I was able to refer the service to the Care Quality Commission who are closely monitoring the implementation of the agreed improvements.
In order to ensure that such incidents are not repeated and improvements continue to be made a number of things need to be in place. Since my election, I have been pressing Ministers to address the historic funding gap that has in the past affected the health services available to local people. Some progress has been made with sustained increases in Cornish NHS budgets being secured; in 2011-2012 Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust benefited from a £27.5million budget increase and a further increase of £25.7million this year.
The Government has also provided additional funding for the most vulnerable people needing care - this year an additional £7.4million has been provided to Cornwall Council’s adult social care services. Nationally funding for research into how we can tackle the great social care challenge facing us, dementia, has been doubled. Meanwhile support for those at the frontline of dementia and other health conditions, the carers who contribute so much to their loved ones and to the rest of society, has been increased with an additional £400million of funding for carers’ breaks being put in place.
Whilst continuing to press for fairer funding I have also been working on giving patients more information and say in our local health services and ensuring staff are protected from fear of retribution if they report safety issues. Reforms that are currently being piloted in Cornwall will be implemented from April so that more decisions that affect patients in Cornwall will be made in Cornwall. Local clinicians have now formed the Kernow Commissioning Group, with powers to provide the services their patients need. The Cornwall Health and Wellbeing Board has seen the NHS, Cornwall Council and other organisations concerned with public health come together to secure better public health for local residents.
The health professionals I meet with are committed to their work, however, in order to continue to provide first class care they need to be enabled to take decisions on behalf of the communities they serve, and be supported by funding that meets local health needs. I will continue to do all I can to enable this to happen.