Thursday, 4 January 2018

NHS and Broadband

Shortly before the Christmas break, I was pleased that the Government announced that the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust has been granted an additional £1.5 million funding to help cope with winter pressures. The extra funding was announced as part of a £337 million immediate funding boost for NHS hospitals this winter in the recent Budget, in addition to an extra £2.8 billion investment over the next two years.

I have met several constituents at my weekly surgeries in recent months who have had difficulties in getting a routine spinal referral. I have written to the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group on this matter several times. It has now been announced that NHS Kernow has lifted the suspension on routine spinal referrals, following the publication of the new referral guidelines for Adult Low Back Pain and completion of the final tasks necessary to support full implementation of the new spinal pathway.

During my constituency surgeries, I meet people who need assistance with an array of issues in their lives. Recently, I have met individuals and organisations who have wanted to discuss broadband. In December 2017, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that it will be delivering universal broadband through a regulatory Universal Service Obligation, which was legislated for in the Digital Economy Act earlier in 2017. This will ensure that everyone will have the legal right to decent broadband - of at least 10mbps - which is needed to be part of modern life. The USO will be in place by 2020, and in the meantime the rollout of superfast broadband continues.

The Superfast broadband project of a few years ago helped get Cornwall ahead of the rest of the country in terms of broadband speeds and paved the way for a new generation of businesses who could benefit from being located in Cornwall without the usual problems of distance from the market.

However, the fact that most of the county has high speeds makes it all the more galling for those communities who were left behind and who have had to struggle on with very poor broadband connections.  Getting high speed broadband solutions to the remaining households not covered by the original programme is now a priority for government and work continues.

I want us to make the most of the opportunities that superfast broadband offers. The computer software industry has really taken off in this part of Cornwall in recent years. Superfast broadband means that software companies can compete around the world from a digital connection in Cornwall.

We are already beginning to feel the benefits, with software companies like Headforwards, Blue Fruit and LumiraDx growing in our area. Innovation centres at Pool and Tremough play an important role in incubating new start-ups.  Meanwhile, proposals for a new fibre park in Pool to bring together software companies and training from Cornwall College to create opportunities for local school leavers could take things to the next level.  We have the chance to really put Cornwall on the map in this sector.

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