Local MP Joins Kent Campaign for New Medical School

Michael has signed a joint letter by 16 MPs across Kent to support the bid from Canterbury Christ Church University and the University of Kent to establish a medical school in the Kent and Medway area.

As Christmas approaches, local health services are preparing for the challenges the winter period brings.  Having discussed these challenges with many NHS and health organisations, Michael is aware that one of the main reasons local providers struggle is because they cannot recruit enough doctors.

Kent is one of the largest areas in the UK without a medical school.  The letter therefore raises awareness of issues surrounding recruitment in the health sector.  It also outlines the benefits a medical school would bring to the region, such as improving local people’s access to high quality healthcare.

The group of MPs add that a local medical school will attract newly qualified and senior doctors, thereby improving health outcomes for patients in Kent:

‘We face serious health inequalities across Kent & Medway, with life expectancy for males up to eight years lower in the most deprived areas […] we firmly believe that a medical school would be transformative for our local health services.’

Fallon Calls for Fairer Economy

Michael called for a ‘fairer economy’ from the backbenches in the debate on the Autumn Budget yesterday.

The local MP welcomed a range of measures from the Chancellor, supporting longer-term and additional money for the NHS.

He called for further action in four specific areas:

First, he argued that the National Insurance threshold should be raised in line with the income tax one. He pointed out that some low paid workers are paying as much in NI contributions as they are income tax.

Second, he highlighted the need for companies like Amazon and Google to pay their share of rates and tax, asserting that Britain ‘shouldn’t have different economies for the big and the small.’

Third, he pointed out that when Margaret Thatcher left government in 1990, 11 million people owned shares. Today, however, only 8 million do. He called for tax breaks for companies that offer free shares to employees and for discounted shares to be offered to the public when the government’s stake in RBS is sold off.

Finally, the Sevenoaks MP advocated a more vigorous push from Government for exports, noting, ‘outside the Single Market, we’re going to live and die by what we sell’.

‘A fairer economy, much wider employee share ownership, exporting at the heart of every government industrial policy, these are some of the steps towards our new economic future’, Michael suggested.  ‘Muddling along, mere managerialism will not be enough.’

Concluding his speech, Michael added: ‘Brexit Britain requires a bigger vision, more confident, outward-looking, self-rewarding.  Let’s build on this Budget to enable Britain to be bolder still.’

Michael Opens New Wound Centre

Michael has officially opened a new specialist wound centre at Sevenoaks Hospital.

The new centre, which has been operational since May, is staffed by advanced wound nurses supported by tissue viability specialist nurses.  The clinic means patients in Sevenoaks with a chronic, complex or surgical wound now have access to specialist care.

As part of his official duties, Michael was given a tour of the centre.  He was joined by Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Chief Executive, Paul Bentley, and Chairman, David Griffiths, as well as dozens of guests.

Michael spoke to some of the patients on his tour.  One patient, Monica Wain (90) from Sevenoaks said: ‘[The staff] really know what they are doing here and in two months they healed my wounds.  It’s marvellous.’

The clinic is piloting an innovative new wound-monitoring app, WoundMatrix, that supports clinicians to heal wounds and pressure ulcers faster in the centre, which Michael was keen to inspect.

He said: ‘This new centre is an important addition to our local health services because treating wounds requires specialist ongoing care.  Its unique state-of-the-art equipment helps keep Sevenoaks one step ahead in the services it provides.’

Spotting Invisible Wounds

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’

A saying that dates back to 1862, passed down through the generations; it embodies those British stereotypes of supressing emotions and stiffening the upper-lip.

Yet old adages contain old ideas, and such sayings standardise a stigma that we now need to move beyond: how we speak about mental health problems.

World Mental Health Day on Tuesday reminded us that 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children are affected by mental illnesses.  The majority do not speak up and do not seek help.

By changing the way we discuss mental illnesses, we can start to provide people the support they need.

That’s why I am proud of this Government’s record investment in mental healthcare; mental and physical health now have parity in law.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced a review of the Mental Health Act to tackle longstanding injustices in our mental health system.  It’s about helping some of the most vulnerable in society.

It’s also about relieving our straining public services.  The NHS’s challenge with mental illnesses is marked by a 43 per cent increase in detainments within the past decade alone.  Around 40 per cent of police business in Kent is concerned with mental health problems.

To deal with this, we’ve increased the number of psychiatric consultants and we’ve taken steps to ensure that many thousands more young people will receive the right treatment at the right time by 2020.

Compared to 2010, 40 per cent more people access mental health services every day.  The number of mental health patients being held inappropriately in police cells is also down by 80 per cent over the same period.

We’re lucky that West Kent MIND, which has provided vital support for years, is based in Sevenoaks.  On Tuesday, they held training sessions for schools and businesses to facilitate workplace wellbeing. On Sunday, they’ll host a fun run in Knole Park to raise further awareness.

Tomorrow, I will visit Sevenoaks Hospital to open the new Wound Centre.  But I will remember those wounds that are often just as serious: the ones we cannot see.

Column: Building On Our Achievements In 2017

In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need to build on Sevenoaks’ progress this year:

2016 was a very successful year for Sevenoaks.  In an unsettled year nationally, our local economy remained strong, with unemployment falling to another record low.

Though there will be challenges, I believe 2017 could be even better.

After so many years of campaigning, in September our new grammar school annexe will finally open.  I visited the site just before Christmas and I could already see that it will be a great addition to the remarkable range of high-quality school choice that is now on offer in Sevenoaks.  There is still more to do to secure grammar provision for boys, though, and that will be one of my top priorities this year.

Meanwhile, discussions on the new rail franchise will be a great opportunity to lobby for the extension of the Oyster network and the many other rail improvements we want to see.  I look forward to continuing to make the case for passengers this year.

With an ageing population increasing pressure on the NHS and our care system, we need to continue to protect Sevenoaks Hospital.  It is a much-loved feature of our town – but it also has an important role to play in relieving pressure on facilities at Pembury and Darent Valley.  Carrying on making that argument will be vital this year.

Finally, we need to make sure the District Council develops a robust and reasonable Local Plan that will give us the homes we need without encouraging inappropriate development in our town and in our villages in the years to come.

With all of these priorities and more, I am looking forward to continuing to represent Sevenoaks this year.  After a successful 2016, let’s build on our achievements in 2017

Column: We’ve Beaten Mental Health Stigma – Now Let’s Finish the Job

In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the challenge of mental health:

For too long, mental health was a taboo subject.  But with MPs and celebrities speaking out about their own experiences, much of the stigma that used to be associated with mental illness has gone.

In its place, though, is a realisation of how significant this challenge is for our country.  One in four people experience a mental health problem each year, with myriad effects on their families, jobs and lives.

We have made a lot of progress already.  Mental health now has parity of esteem with physical health in the NHS; five times more people are accessing treatment for conditions like depression and anxiety than six years ago; and extra funding is being invested in mental healthcare over the next few years.

But more money and warm words need to mean something practical.  That means coming up with innovative and wide-ranging ways to make sure people get the help they need.

I have recently been meeting local organisations to discuss their efforts to meet this challenge.  Their work includes better liaison services in A&E, provided by Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT).  Another improvement is cooperation between KMPT and Kent Police to give people the care they need, rather than a night in a cell because there is nowhere else to go.  West Kent Mind has always offered a fantastic service to our community that I have been proud to support.  Now it is also providing counsellors, alongside KMPT, to talk to vulnerable callers to the emergency services.

There is still a lot more to do.  People need to be able to find help more easily and the system needs to be simpler.

But with these organisations working together to find the innovative solutions we need, this is a challenge we can beat.

Annual Report 2015-16

Standing up for Sevenoaks and Swanley

oaks chamber of commerceLast May, I was honoured to be elected for the fifth time as your Member of Parliament.

Since the election, I have continued to work hard on behalf of all of my constituents.  I hold two advice surgeries each month, as I have done consistently since 1997, and I regularly raise issues and concerns on your behalf.  My Westminster office also deals with hundreds of emails and enquiries every week.  I work closely with our county, district, town and parish councillors, as well as other organisations such as Kent Police, the Citizens Advice Bureau and West Kent Housing.

I remain closely involved in campaigns across Sevenoaks and Swanley.  From fighting to save Hextable Dance Studio to defending Sevenoaks Hospital, I am proud to support my constituents and fight for our communities.

Supporting our local schools

Meeting pupils at Churchill Primary School in Westerham.
Meeting pupils at Churchill Primary School in Westerham.

I am a strong supporter of schools across my constituency.  Since the election I have visited schools in Westerham, Sundridge, Swanley, Sevenoaks, and elsewhere to speak to pupils and answer their questions about my work as MP.

Winning our campaign to secure grammar school provision last October was probably my best ever day as your MP.  This decision was long in coming but the priority now is to get this annexe built and open for local parents and pupils.  My next goal is to secure grammar provision for boys and I am working on this.

Getting a better deal for commuters

Inspecting the work in progress at London Bridge Station
Inspecting the work at London Bridge Station.

Our ageing railways cause a huge amount of frustration for commuters and passen

gers.  Disruption may be the price of the vital work at London Bridge – but passengers need to know why they are delayed and what is being done about it.  I was concerned to learn on a recent train cab ride that drivers are often unable to inform passengers about ongoing disruption and slow running while their train is in operation.  Making sure drivers and passengers have rapid, clear and sufficent information is essential.  I will continue to raise these issues with Southeastern to make rail travel easier for my constituents.

Bringing Oyster to Sevenoaks was another promise I made at the general election.  Rail passengers have waited long enough and I will be meeting the Rail Minister again shortly to push for a definite date.

Fighting for our NHS services

Michael with representatives from the hospital and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Michael with representatives from the hospital and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust.

I am committed to our local NHS.  We need to see more services in Sevenoaks, not fewer.  That’s why I have continued to defend Sevenoaks Hospital against the threat of closure.  The withdrawal of some clinics was concerning but I have secured assurances that these vital services will continue to be available for local people.

Protecting GP services is also important.  There is a review of GP provision underway and I will ensure the views of local people are fully represented.  The NHS is so much more than the big district hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley; it works best where it is local and loved.

Boosting our local economy

Michael Fallon Darent Wax tour
Michael visiting the Darent Wax Company.

In Sevenoaks and Swanley, our local economy is strong.  Compared with 2010, there are 600 fewer people out of work, including 200 fewer young unemployed, and we have 600 more businesses.  I see evidence of this progress on each of my regular constituency days.  Since the election, I have visited businesses, shops and local sites throughout the constituency and I have more visits already planned for the next few months.

But there is still more to do to support our local economy.  Broadband is a key issue that businesses and the Chamber of Commerce continue to raise with me.  I have recently begun a fresh campaign to demand further action from BT.  We need to make sure our local businesses and those who work from home have the broadband they need to thrive, wherever they are based.

 

Michael Reassured by Visit to Sevenoaks Hospital

Michael with representatives from the hospital and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Michael with representatives from the hospital and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Michael has announced that he is ‘reassured’ after a recent visit to Sevenoaks Hospital.

His visit came following recent changes to the outpatient services offered by Sevenoaks Hospital.

Following significant local concern, Michael secured assurances from West Kent CCG and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, that Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust would take over the clinics previously offered by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Michael was met at the hospital by David Griffiths, Chairman of Kent Community Health, Paul Bentley, Chief Executive, matron Rachel Nicholls and other representatives.  They showed him the hospital’s wards and the Minor Injuries Unit, before accompanying him to Darent House, the former site of the Knole Centre.  Mr Griffiths and Mr Bentley then briefed Michael on the latest developments at the hospital.

Michael meeting patients at Sevenoaks Hospital.
Michael meeting patients at Sevenoaks Hospital.

Michael said: “There has been some concern in Sevenoaks about the future of our hospital.  Having visited, I am reassured that it will retain its vital role in our local NHS, taking pressure off acute hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley.  We need more local NHS care, not less, and I will continue to press for even more services to deliver the healthcare we need at Sevenoaks Hospital.”

Michael Fights for Sevenoaks Hospital

Michael has launched a defiant defence of Sevenoaks Hospital following the announcement that King’s College Hospital Trust is to withdraw its services.

He recently demanded assurances that the hospital will remain open from the local Clinical Commissioning Group and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which operates the other services at the hospital.

In a response, Dr Bob Bowes, Clinical Chair of West Kent CCG, confirmed that all patients seen under existing arrangements will either continue to be seen at Sevenoaks, but by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust staff, or will transfer their appointments to Princess Royal University Hospital.

Dr Bowes also confirmed that Sevenoaks Hospital is part of a wider review of local health services.  Michael is concerned about this process and will continue to watch developments closely.

Michael said: “I have always defended Sevenoaks Hospital against the threat of closure.  I am as determined as ever to protect the vital services it offers for local people.  I want to see more services in Sevenoaks, not less.”

Michael is currently awaiting a response from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and has requested a meeting with the Chief Executive.

Column: A Dunton Green Surgery Would Benefit Everyone in Sevenoaks

In the first of a new monthly column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about his support for a new GP surgery in Dunton Green:

Following our grammar school success and with renewed progress on the Oyster campaign, with this new monthly column I will be keeping you up to date about my work as your Member of Parliament.

One of the best parts of my job is spending Friday and the weekend visiting different parts of my constituency.  I look in on schools and businesses, I meet residents, and of course I hold my monthly advice surgeries in both Sevenoaks and Swanley.

Recently, I spent time focusing on healthcare and the challenges that our growing and ageing population will bring to Sevenoaks.  We need more GP places and I believe a new medical facility in Dunton Green could help.

This is not just about Dunton Green, though with the ongoing development at Ryewood this is a rapidly growing area.  It’s a valuable opportunity to relieve the rising pressure on other surgeries, securing benefits for residents across Sevenoaks.

I also met West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group which oversees our GP services.  As they made clear, it is important to create a long-term plan for GP provision in Sevenoaks – but we must also deal with the immediate situation.  Several local surgeries are already full and without timely action the situation could worsen. 

We also need to look again at Sevenoaks Hospital and make sure that we are making fullest use of all the services provided there.  The NHS is much more than the big district hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley; it works best where it’s local and loved.