One aspect of the pandemic that has caught us unawares is how public interaction with the NHS has rocketed as restrictions have eased. For example, GP practises across Cornwall have provided 3.8m appointments this year, 2.3m of these were face-to-face. Add to this the demand on RCHT Treliske which is well documented and we can see why the pressures on our healthcare services this winter are going to be especially acute. NHS leaders, both here in West Cornwall and across the Duchy, are exploring every possible option to ease the pressure.
Cutting the acute pressure on RCHT requires a complex menu of actions that, sadly, will not happen overnight. I’ll mention a few: improving the pay and working conditions for domiciliary care staff, investing in primary care and community-based services, preventing falls within the home for elderly people, driving covid out of all of our care homes, increasing the take-up of the covid vaccine and booster jab, using home-based technology more to promote and support people living at home, strengthening community volunteer services that ‘keep an eye’ on vulnerable people, increasing the role of community pharmacy, reducing unnecessary admissions to Treliske, increasing what treatment is available in other hospitals such as West Cornwall and our community hospitals, injection serious cash to improve and modernise our hospitals, integrating health and social care services and providing step up and step down beds for people who need short-stay rehabilitation care.
There will be more that could be listed but my point is that there is no simple solution and much of what I’ve listed is being done but it takes time and I’m the first to say we need to act more quickly. People are frustrated because they have seen this problem time and time again and expect everyone to work together to sort it. Covid is not the cause but it has tested the system and found it wanting.
There are far too many beds taken up in Treliske by people who are far better off in a community setting and there are far too many beds in care homes unavailable due to the presence of covid. All I can say is that, having attended meetings with medical professionals from all parts of health and care there is no lack of expertise, determination and ideas. The legislation needed to fund and integrate health and social care (including improving the lot of care staff) is going through Parliament and Cornwall’s NHS hospitals, including West Cornwall, is getting massive amounts of capital investment.
Whilst GPs are under enormous sustained pressure it is the case that they are delivering unprecedented numbers of appointments and their teams are delivering the vaccine, booster and flu jab which has meant that nearly the entire population here in Cornwall and on Scilly has had some form of engagement with Primary Care which, in itself, is unprecedented. Please be patient where possible. Some of you may even consider applying for the jobs available in the NHS and across our care sector. This would help!
The Environment Bill is at a critical phase now and the draft legislation has to be one of the most ambitious in the world. I’m encouraged by Government movement in relation to storm water runoff. Rain water overwhelms the pipes and the drainage system releases excess content into waterways and the sea. The alternative is for raw sewage to find its way back into our homes and busting up through chamber covers in the street. I voted against the Government as I know we can’t tolerate this any longer. However, don’t underestimate the cost to water company customers. The £50,000,000 bill to water rate payers across the southwest for work to improve the water and sewage treatment on Scilly is an example why the Government has resisted the shift to make storm overflow illegal. You can see why Government did not want to agree to an unfounded and uncosted commitment. I’m confident we have now addressed storm water overflow which is an example of what backbench constituency MPs can achieve when working in collaboration.
I continued with my ‘drop-in’ surgeries on Saturday in Mawgan, Manaccan and Breage. I also popped into the Newlyn Centre 15 year anniversary and was glad of the opportunity to listen to the issues that trouble those I met. I can raise these directly with Ministers and the PM which is the strength of our democracy. As with health and social care, it can take time to sort out the improvements that are needed for people but the work so often starts with a conversation with a constituent. This is why MPs have been so vocal about the need to carry on being ‘out and about’ in our communities despite the murder of Sir David Amess.