Wear It Pink

Today in Parliament, I had the pleasure helping Breast Cancer Now prepare for #wearitpink on October 19th.

Since 2002, Breast Cancer Now has raised over £31 million to fund life-saving research, including here in Sevenoaks. 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year – and it is organisations such as BNC that drive forward research into detection, prevention and effective treatment.

To find out more about their work, visit: https://www.wearitpink.org/.

 

Michael Breast Cancer Awareness

NHS Re-organisation

Daily Telegraph
Here we go again.  There have been rumours for weeks.   Now there’s a formal invitation to be briefed on the forthcoming “strategic” merger of Kent’s NHS “commissioning groups”.

In 21 years as Sevenoaks MP I’ve known one constant – endless NHS re-organisation.  When I arrived in 1996 there was just one District Health Authority.  This was then split into a new West Kent health authority and several GP fundholding practices.  In 1999 these were merged into the Sevenoaks and Tonbridge Primary Group.   In 2002 this became the West Kent Primary Care Trust.  In 2006 this Trust was merged again, with two neighbouring Primary Care Trusts to form the North West Kent Primary Care Trust.

Then came the Lansley reforms.  His massive Bill, burning up hours of parliamentary time and much coalition political capital, swept away the Primary Care Trusts, on which GPs were already represented, and replaced them with Commissioning Groups (on which more GPs were represented).  Our West Kent Commissioning Group took effect in 2013.

Now its days, too, look numbered.  A statement last month suggests each of Kent’s eight Commissioning Groups will now be brought together to form “a single strategic commissioning function”.  Our commissioners have explained: “it has become clear to us collectively that there is a need for some aspects of the commissioning of NHS care to be more joined-up.”   So new notepaper, new senior posts, yet more change.

That’s only part of the ever-changing NHS mosaic.  Higher up, the South East Thames Regional Health Authority became the South Thames Regional Health Authority in 1994.  In 2002 this was split into smaller “strategic” health authorities, in our case the Kent and Medway Strategic Health Authority.  In 2006 this was enlarged to become the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority.  In October 2011 that merged with two neighbouring strategic health authorities to become the South Coast Strategic Health Authority.  Just 18 months later it was abolished altogether.

Beyond primary care, the same upheaval. Mental health and community services were originally provided to Sevenoaks by the District Health Authority.  In 1997 mental health services were transferred to a new Invicta Community Trust.  In 2002 Invicta merged with the Thames Gateway Community Trust to form the West Kent NHS and Social Care Trust.  Four years later the West Kent and East Kent NHS and Social Care Trusts came together to form the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust.

Meanwhile other community services moved in 2009 from the Invicta and Thames Gateway Trusts to West Kent Community Health, which in 2011 merged with East Kent and Coastal Kent Community Services NHS Trust to form Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust.   Ambulance services were run by Kent Ambulance Service: in 2006 this merged with the Surrey and Sussex Ambulance Services to form the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

In the midst of this bureaucratic turmoil survives Sevenoaks Hospital, founded in 1870.  But its day-to-day operations are becoming increasingly complex.  Since 1997, it’s been owned by Invicta Trust, by the West Kent Primary Care Trust and by NHS Estates.  Now owned by NHS Property, it’s run by Kent Community Health NHS Trust, with clinics run by various NHS organisations – even some from Sussex.

I make that at least 19 different bodies that have been “running” the NHS in Sevenoaks, almost one for every year I’ve been its MP.  All these changes have been accompanied by hopeful PR, promising better patient service.  But each has involved more cost and more management time which could be better spent on patients. So much change erodes public confidence: nobody really knows who is responsible for what.

Ever-changing bureaucracies undermine local institutions and affections.  In twenty-five years we’ve moved from local to district, from strategic to local, and now back up to county again.  Who can be sure of the right level at which to allocate resources and prioritise services when there’s nobody in charge long enough.

The damage isn’t just to patients and the public but to front-line staff.  It is our hard-pressed nurses and doctors who have to re-adjust their reporting procedures, to cope with fresh layers of bogus accountability, to learn the latest jargon of the newly merged.  This isn’t why they joined.   And we don’t need more of it.    After serving as a surgeon in the Second World War my father joined the NHS as it began: in 25 years he dealt only with a single regional hospital board.  Are we really better served now ?

There are now 32,000 senior managers in the NHS, paid over £65,000 a year: 7 per cent up on a year ago.  Remember the empty St Edward’s hospital in Yes, Minister – the best-run hospital in the country, but which had no patients.  If we’re serious about putting patients before paperwork, it’s time we stopped endlessly re-organising the NHS.

The Vital Work of Women’s Refuge

Michael has praised the ‘vital’ work of staff at a local Women’s Refuge.

The refuge, based at a secret location in West Kent, accommodates women and their children who have experienced domestic abuse.  For these families, the seven-room refuge is their only safe space.  Run by Look Ahead Care Support and Housing and managed by Yvette Hazeldon, the refuge provides families the time and security needed to reintegrate into society.

During his visit, Ms Hazeldon briefed Michael about the high demand for accommodation in the refuge, adding that the nature of the demand has changed because social media enables perpetrators to locate victims more easily.s Refuge 22 Sept 17

They reviewed the Government’s work to help victims of domestic abuse.  Despite record numbers of prosecutions and convictions since 2010, there are still two million victims of domestic abuse every year in England and Wales.

Michael told Ms Hazeldon that the Government will introduce a Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill to bring to the justice system greater clarity about the impact of domestic abuse on families and encourage better response to the lifelong impact on children into adulthood.

He said: ‘My office regularly deals with cases involving domestic abuse.  This refuge provides a vital service in keeping families safe.  We will work together to ensure the Government are taking the right steps to support victims.’

Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

Business-is-good-for-Kent-logo1The West Kent Partnership of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, which includes Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks hosted a business breakfast today:  West Kent – The Big Priorities – Have Your Say.  80 businesses were represented at the breakfast to discuss the big, local issues that are holding their business back.

Michael opened the Conference and Exhibition with the following speech:

“It’s a pleasure to be here and to see some many of the  businesses that are making a major contribution to our growing economy and creating jobs for local people.

“What is striking about the last five years is the rate of business creation. Across the South East there are 103,000 more business now than in 2010 – 750,000 in total for the country.

“If you cast your mind back to 2010 that is a remarkable change. Back then our economy was in trouble, with a budget deficit second only to Greece.  But it doesn’t surprise those of us who understand that it is businesses that generate the wealth that funds our public services.

“That’s why despite the fiscal challenges we faced, the cornerstone of our economic plan was to back business.  We’ve cut corporation tax, increased tax incentives for investing in growing businesses, cut the jobs tax, and invested in infrastructure.

” It is thanks to the efforts of millions of firms across the country that we are now the fastest growing major economy in the world.  And that 1000 new jobs have been created everyday in this parliament – three quarters of them full time jobs.

“I was fortunate to be Business Minister for 18 months. In that role I championed business and the concerns that the Chambers of Commerce and others raised – cutting red tape, improving the supply of credit to small firms by backing challenger banks and new providers such as peer-to-peer lenders, and simplifying business support.

“On local growth, I worked with local authorities and LEPs to agree Growth Deals and give them greater powers and freedom to help improve infrastructure and support business in their areas.

“In the Budget the Chancellor outlined further measures to promote growth including an ambition for ultrafast broadband to be available to nearly all premises, a comprehensive review of business rates, and scrapping the annual tax return.

“But there is always more to do to help firms grow – whether it is to start exporting, to harness the potential of technology to move into new markets or innovate, or to increase access to finance.

“So I am delighted that West Kent B2B is leading the way in identifying barriers to growth and practical steps to help boost the local economy.  And I note that your agenda covers the big themes of tax, finance, technology that can help drive your businesses forward.”

West Kent Partnership – Business Engagement

west kent partnershipMichael’s speech at this event highlighted the importance of vibrant SMEs in West Kent to the national economy.  Representing a constituency in West Kent, he said could see first-hand the entrepreneurial zeal of our local business owners and discussed how the Government is backing them.

It is no secret: small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy.  SMEs are the responsible for nearly half the job creation in the UK.  And it is job creation which is a central part of this Government’s economic and welfare plans.  I am sure you will all join with me in welcoming last week’s employment figures which showed that there are now more people in work than ever before.  In the constituency of Sevenoaks we saw the claimant count fall by 225 from August 2013 – August 2014.

It is thanks to the risk takers, the thinkers and the doers who run our SMEs that more people than ever before have the security of a pay package and the Government is backing you wholeheartedly.  But to be able to create the jobs for our economic recovery, SMEs have to do business in an economy which is business-friendly. That’s is why he was so pleased that the Government is backing them in a number of ways:  Michael said:
1.  Tax cuts
“I am a low-tax Conservative so I am pleased that small businesses will now feel the impact of several important tax cuts.  Corporation tax has fallen to 21 per cent; help on business rates has come in; and the landmark Employment Allowance will take up to £2,000 off employers’ National Insurance bills.”
2.  Apprenticeships
“Everyone attending this event will know the value of helping our young onto the career ladder. To help small businesses take on apprentices the Government is providing an extra £85 million for over 100,000 grants to employers, and from April 2015 employer’s national insurance contributions for those under-21 will be abolished, making it easier for businesses to take on more young people.”
3.  Red Tape
“I am perhaps most pleased by the needless red tape which has been cut and the net burden of regulation on business which has fallen by almost £1.5 billion since January 2011.  Speaking to businesses in my constituency, they all say the same thing, red tape and regulation has held them back in the past and we must continue to elevate this burden from them.”
4.  Energy Costs
“I know from my time as Minister for Business and Energy that small businesses are struggling with energy costs. To help them get a fairer deal, the Government has secured an agreement from the major energy firms to end auto-rollovers for business customers, limit back-billing, increase transparency of contract terms and make switching easier.”
5.  Regional Growth Fund/Escalate Programme
“It is essential to give local communities more autonomy to help rebalance our economy towards private-sector growth. Ministers are improving economic development at the regional level through Enterprise Zones and the £3.2 billion Regional Growth Fund.  Significant funding is also being devolved to Local Enterprise Partnerships to enable them to tackle barriers to growth in the private sector in their area.  Here in West Kent, we have already heard this morning of three success stories from the Escalate programme which is a £5.5 million scheme, funded by the Regional Growth Fund. Offering loans on an interest‐free basis to businesses has led to sustained job creation and business expansion.  Also, availability of business rate discounts and Enhanced Capital Allowance will each be extended by three years as an incentive for new and expanding businesses to locate in Enterprise Zones.”

“All over the country and especially here in West Kent, SME’s are driving forward economic growth through innovation and sheer hard work.  It is fantastic that there are now over two million new private sector jobs and 400,000 more businesses than in 2010.  So I encourage you all to continue to be part of the economic success story I look forward to watching you all go from strength to strength in the years to come.”