Cheltenham Hospital one of the town's greatest assets


Winter's coming.


With temperatures still on the mild side, it might not feel like it. But the steady arrival of Christmas decorations in Cheltenham's shops tells a different story. Icy weather will soon be upon us.


That means high season for Cheltenham's medical services. I believe our acute emergency hospital is our most precious asset. In a town of 115,000 people it is essential that we retain a 'hot' hospital here, something I have emphasised in person to Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary.


Since May I have made a point of visiting several GPs' surgeries as well as our General Hospital. Our GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and midwives have an extraordinary sense of duty and vocation. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. Never more so than at this time of year.


For doctors, the reality is that modern medicine has become far more complex in recent times. There are over a million more over-65s living in the UK compared with 2010. Given our total population of just 64m that's a stunning statistic. Longer life expectancy is fantastic news, but it has led to patients attending surgeries with a bewildering variety of conditions. Pressed GPs nowadays spend as much time managing symptoms as they do curing them.


Nationally, more money is going into the NHS than ever before. Compared with 2010 there are over 8,500 more doctors, 6,300 more nurses and 1,900 more midwives. An additional £7bn has been invested, and £1bn has been put into the Cancer Drugs Fund. There's more coming every year, with the Government having answered the call of the NHS's chief executive for further billions.


I want Cheltenham to get its fair share. Our hospital needs investment. The Emergency Department is cramped and needs a refit. Some of the Victorian facilities need an overhaul. I also want to see more training opportunities locally for NHS nurses. It is not right that we should be trawling the world for nurses when we have people here in Gloucestershire ready to do the job.


In other news, this week I met George Osborne in Parliament to lobby him personally for more funding for Cheltenham's schools. That's on the back of my meeting with the PM on this point. I am determined to keep plugging away on this issue. I also met GCHQ staff at their 'Open Day' last week, joined a snap quality visit of a care facility in town, and met staff to show my support for increasing help for neo-natal care.


Oh, and I squeezed in a flu jab. Don't forget yours!