Thursday, 12 October 2017

Royal Cornwall Hosptials NHS Trust

The problems at Treliske were laid bare this week in a concerning report by the Care Quality Commission. The hospital has been rated as "inadequate" with surgery, maternity and gynaecology, end of life and outpatient services also rated as inadequate.  As a result, we have seen the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust being placed into special measures. 
When any organisation faces the sort of challenging report delivered last week, we have to strike the right balance in our response.  We must not ignore problems or make excuses for some of the failures highlighted.   Equally, we must be supportive of those who work there and must take care not to undermine morale among hard working medical staff.   We all have tremendous respect for the doctors, nurses and other staff who show great commitment and dedication.  We also recognise that despite more funding, demand on NHS services has grown.
So, we need to use this report as an opportunity to help put things right. To their credit, the senior management team and the Board at the RCHT have taken this head on and made clear that they will work to address the shortcomings.   One of the consequences of going into special measures is that there will be a new Improvement Director put in place, with experience of turning around hospitals facing similar challenges.  They may help the management team at RCHT get back on an even keel and get the whole operation back on its feet.  In addition, strengthening some of the clinical management functions within the Trust will help.
We should also recognise that it was not all bad news.  Locally, we have great work being done at St Michael’s Hospital, which is a national leader in breast surgery, and Camborne and Redruth Hospital which has a number of specialisms including stroke and prosthetics.  The quality of services at St Michael's in Hayle were recognised and rated as good.  Critical care and children and young people’s services have been rated as good. 
Alongside the report, a review found poorly coordinated processes that meant the experience of people moving between hospitals, social care and their own homes was often not good enough. How we support people in need of adult social care is a growing dilemma, and creative thinking is needed.   Finding the right solutions is key to easing pressure on the NHS.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Conservative Party Conference

This week is the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester which marks the end of conference season.   Much like last year, the issue that is looming large is how we maximise the opportunities created by our decision to leave the European Union. However, there have been other, less high profile issues discussed which are important to me.
In my time as an MP and particularly as a Minister at Defra, I have worked to try to improve standards of animal welfare.  We are a nation of animal lovers but there are, sadly, some terrible individual cases of gratuitous cruelty to animals which must be addressed. That is why I was pleased that Michael Gove has announced that we will bring forward new legislation that will substantially increase the maximum sentences that can be handed out for people who abuse animals to five years, instead of the six months now.  This announcement follows on from an earlier decision to increase the maximum fine from £20,000 to an unlimited fine.  There have been too many cases in which courts have said that they would have handed down longer sentences if they had been available.  These new proposals will send a very clear signal to potential offenders that the abuse of animals has no place in our society.
This latest announcement is one of a number of steps we have taken to improve animal welfare recently.  We announced that we would introduce compulsory CCTV in slaughterhouses and are now consulting on that proposal.  This is necessary to ensure we can enforce the highest standards in slaughterhouses and, again, there have been too many instances of failure in the past.  Earlier this year, Defra published proposals to overhaul the laws on a number of animal-related licensing schemes, such as the regulations on pet shops and the licensing of puppy breeders.  I have campaigned to strengthen the licensing of puppy breeding since becoming an MP so I am pleased to be moving this forward.  

Media reporting of party conferences will always be dominated by personality politics and big speeches and this year is no different.  However, sometimes there are issues that attract less media interest but which are nevertheless important steps forward. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Local Schools

It has been a good news week for our local schools. I was pleased to read about students from Camborne Science and International Academy, who have just travelled almost 7,000 miles to take part in the Singapore International Science Challenge. CSIA has done some great work on international exchanges in recent years, and it is always clear that they are so beneficial to the students involved. Back in 2013, CSIA became the first school in Britain to host the International Student Science Fair. The decision to do so was a great credit to the school, and it has paved the way for continued excellence in science.

Meanwhile, at Hayle Community School, students teamed up with Rowe’s Cornish Bakers to launch a Cornish pasty into space. Very much bringing science lessons to life, the experiment coincided with a space project being undertaken by students. In another space adventure, Pool Academy’s school mascot was sent 20 miles up into the edge of space on a helium balloon by students, in order to take pictures and video clips.

Elsewhere, Redruth School has been named the best state secondary school in Cornwall by the Real Schools Guide. So all in all, a good couple of weeks for our schools and congratulations to all of those involved.

There was also some further good news on unemployment locally with more people in work than ever before. Unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975. Over 3 million more people are now in work since 2010. Here in Camborne and Redruth, the number of unemployed claimants has gone from 3.8% of the economically active population in 2010 to 2.2% now.

On a more sombre note, I was saddened to read about the tragic events in and around Mexico City. Cornwall has close historic links to Mexico through the mining industry, and we recently welcomed a delegation from Redruth’s twin town of Real Del Monte.

Thursday, 21 September 2017


This week, I was fascinated to read about Rob and Tweed, a labrador and a springer spaniel which are part of a new police unit. Police in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset have created the first police dog unit that specialises in detecting digital storage devices. Devon and Cornwall Police say that the dogs are the first of this type outside the USA. This unit will be able to do so much here in the south west, and across the UK. The unit can be used to fight terrorism, fraud and a range of other crimes.  It is a sign that if you want to keep pace with modern technology, there is still not much that can beat man's best friend.
The recent attack on a tube in London is a reminder that attacks by lone extremists are, sadly, becoming something of a regular occurrence.  These attacks create a unique challenge for our security services and police forces since they are often improvised and unpredictable without organisation structures.  Nevertheless, the speed with which the police were able to move and identify the individuals involved demonstrated the extent of intelligence work done to protect us all.  Recently it was announced that an extra £24 million is to be pumped into counter-terrorism policing in the wake of this year’s terror attacks. 
Locally, our police have developed some innovative ideas to join up services.  The "Tri-Service" station in Hayle is a good example.  There, one single, modern building is the joint location for the Fire Brigade, the Police and the Ambulance Service.  It is a great example of our public services working together to save money on overheads like old buildings so that the front line can be prioritised.
However, like everything in life, the real strength of our police force stems from the men and women who work in it and the commitment they bring.  Trying to reduce the deficit and get the economy back on an even keel after Gordon Brown has meant difficult decisions on public spending in recent years.  However, last week, I was pleased that the Government announced that it would award police officers a pay rise. Following independent recommendations by the Police Remuneration Review Body and the Senior Salaries Review Body, officers will receive a pay award worth a total of two per cent to each officer in 2017 to 2018.  

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Visit to Duchy College with Michael Gove

Last Friday I welcomed Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to Cornwall. It was a busy and varied day, and one of the highlights was a visit to Duchy College at Rosewarne. A variety of topics were discussed, including protection for Cornish foods, such as the pasty, post-Brexit.

The college is situated on a working farm, and is something of a horticultural treasure with national plant collections on campus. It has a working nursery, engineering workshops, specialist veterinary nursing facilities and an animal management centre. Duchy College is part of Cornwall College.

I am a former student of Cornwall College and did one of the courses on agriculture.  The visit reminded me of my own days at agricultural college.  Many young people are seeing the opportunities in land based industries and for others a career in animal care or veterinary science is incredibly fulfilling.  While there, we met a group of students who had chosen a course in animal care.  Duchy College offers a wide range of courses in these areas.

We also met Raoul Humphreys, CEO and Principal of Cornwall College. Cornwall College has a deep rooted history in our area and has been at the heart of all further and higher education in Cornwall for the last 80 years or so. It was great to see such enthusiasm from staff and students alike.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

After summer recess, Parliament is sitting again. This week looks set to be a busy week here in Westminster, with much of this week being dominated by the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The Bill will formally repeal the European Communities Act which took us into the EU and handed all those powers to EU courts forty five years ago.  It will be a major step towards re-establishing the UK as an independent, self-governing country free to make its own laws again.
The Bill will also place residual regulations onto a legitimate UK legal footing in order to provide clarity and continuity as we leave the EU. This will ensure that the UK has a functioning statute book when it leaves, and will minimise disruption to businesses and individuals. However, Parliament will be free to keep, amend and repeal laws as it sees fit after this date.

There have been tensions in the most recent phase of the negotiations with the EU but David Davis is right to resist demands from the EU for a huge cash gift as we leave.  The UK always fulfils its international obligations but these must be lawful.  The EU has failed to demonstrate any legal basis for its demands to date and its attempt to ignore important discussions on a future partnership until we agree to give them money makes no sense for the EU who depend on the UK market.  At some point, common sense should prevail. 

The Prime Minister has been clear that she wants us to put in place a close partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation. Our future relationship with the EU will include co-operating with our European partners in the fight against crime and terrorism. We will also collaborate on initiatives in areas such as science, research and technology.  Progress has been made in a lot of areas.  The important thing is that we stay focused on the prize of leaving the EU and becoming independent again but work hard to leave on friendly and amicable terms.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

National Citizenship Service

I have enjoyed spending more time in the constituency this summer once parliament was in recess.  As always, one of the highlights of was a visit to those participating in this year’s National Citizen Programme.

National Citizenship Service (NCS) was set up back in 2011 as a type of modern day, non-military National Service, NCS is open to all 16-17 year olds in England and aims to bring together young people from all sorts of different backgrounds, helping to break down social barriers and develop self-confidence.

As NCS is a residential course, it gives participants the opportunity to leave home behind for a couple of weeks and immerse themselves in a fresh environment and make new friends. This can be a great way to develop their confidence and independence as it means those taking part are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter what school they go to or where their parents live and it’s a great way of breaking down social barriers.

The team I met had done a wonderful job restoring a memory garden at St Martin’s nursing home in Camborne. Speaking to those taking part, it was clear to me just how much they had benefited from NCS and they deserve a big congratulations for taking on the challenge. 

Another recent highlight was a visit to Wheels to Work at Camborne, and the next door charity Life Cycle. Both do good work in our community. Wheels to Work provides subsidised motorcycle rental to help people in remote areas in Cornwall secure a job and travel to work. Life Cycle takes in unwanted bike donations and reconditions them, providing work experience in the process.

I also spent some time in Redruth, where I held an open surgery. This was incredibly well attended, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to so many local people and help them with various problems that they have encountered.