Thank you so much for taking the time to support our Cheltenham Health Campaign. I wanted to take this opportunity to send you a short update on what we’ve achieved so far and some of the important milestones that are coming up.
I’m meeting regularly with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP to highlight Cheltenham’s case. For too long Cheltenham’s NHS felt like a Cinderella service. We were forgotten in Parliament and ignored in Gloucestershire. Between 2005 and 2015, we lost Battledown’s Children Services. We lost doctor-led maternity services. We lost night-time A&E.
I’m determined that our town’s voice is now heard loud and clear, even if it means giving the Health Secretary a hard time.
1. 24-hour Care at Cheltenham General Hospital
Since I last wrote to you, I’ve had several meetings with Gloucestershire’s Clinical Commissioning Group and the senior managers at the Acute (Hospitals) Trust.
They are considering the introduction of a night time urgent care centre, led by GPs, at the Hospital. I see this as a vital stepping stone towards full restoration of A&E services, which I want to see something I’m working hard to achieve. It’s not the finished article but it’s certainly a major step forward. The CCG tell me that they will be publishing more details as part of a consultation in the early Summer (June or July).
2. More GPs, More Appointments and More Community Support
The Health Secretary has earmarked an extra £2.4 billion a year for GP services by 2020/21. There is also a £1 billion Primary Care Transformation Fund. This will deliver GP premises fit for the future and support better technologies such as online tools and appointment booking.
Of course I’m delighted by that commitment. But I want to know how much of that cash is coming to Cheltenham. What does it mean in terms of more GPs and better surgery facilities across the town? I've had some interesting meetings with local clinicians, and further details will be available shortly.
3. Improved Cancer Treatment and Support for Age-Related Illness
Earlier this month I met with the senior managers from NHS England to call for new, state of the art LINAC (cancer treatment) machines at Cheltenham General Hospital. Cancer is now the leading cause of death in Gloucestershire. You can read more about my meeting HERE
We have an excellent oncology unit supported by a dedicated and professional team and our rates of early death from cancer remain below the England average. But investment in the latest technology will provide a huge boost to cancer survival rates, while also reducing side effects. The new LINAC machine is a next-generation piece of equipment that can track tumours and deliver far more precise treatment, reducing healthy tissue damage. It would also replace a machine that is now around twelve years old and expensive to maintain. We should know before long whether the campaign has been successful.
4. Improved Mental Health Support
I’ve been championing a new approach to children’s mental health. I want to end the historic practice of children being sent away from their local community to receive specialist mental health care.
As you can imagine, I was delighted when the Prime Minister promised that, by 2021, we will see an end to children being treated so far from their friends and family.
Last year I led a Westminster debate on children’s mental health. A couple of weeks after the debate, Gloucestershire was awarded an additional £1.5Million to support peri-natal mental health. Peri-natal mental health, often known as the baby blues, refers to a woman’s mental health during pregnancy and the first year after birth. That’s a very welcome pot of money that has come Cheltenham's way. I hope it’s a sign of things to come!
Turning to adult’s mental health; I am delighted that Gloucestershire County Council has just agreed to invest an additional £0.9million on adults’ physical and mental health. Much of that cash will combat the awful blight of social isolation and loneliness. The Council has also found an extra £0.65million to help NHS Gloucestershire by supporting those with dementia being discharged from hospital.
I believe it is important to increase public awareness of dementia. Research is crucial to understanding and tackling the condition. Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training. Further training opportunities will have been rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training.
Of course the NHS is facing pressures. But we should also recognise that there is plenty to welcome locally and we’ve made some positive strides in the last couple of months. There’s lots more still to achieve. We have to let local NHS bosses know how important our local service is to us. My priority is effective 24 hour care and support, 7 days a week in Cheltenham. I will continue to fight our town’s corner. Thanks to your support I’m able to make a strong case.
MP for Cheltenham