I have been working with a number of organisations, both nationally and locally, to explore ways to improve healthcare services and better understand the challenges facing patients, NHS staff and the community as a whole.
We are currently going through the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), which is a complete review of NHS services throughout Cornwall. It is right that all NHS services across Cornwall are in scope to be part of the full review process as part of the consultation for the STP, so we can ensure we get best value for money from them and they operate to the best of their abilities.
I believe it is time for a radical rethink of the centralised approach to health care. I am of the view that Community Hospitals have a key part to play, particularly in the light of the geography of Cornwall, and their role should be enhanced rather than being under threat of closure. Earlier this year I highlighted the vital role of community hospitals in my feedback to the STP and am continuing to campaign for Fowey Hospital to be reopened as well as protecting existing services in Newquay and St Austell Hospitals.
Following a recent review of hospital transport services within Cornwall, I expressed serious concerns about the withdrawal of funding for patients undergoing dialysis and strongly urged the NHS to reconsider given the serious implications this decision could have on vulnerable patients. I am pleased to see RCHT have agreed to suspend implementation of these charges until 31st October 2017 and I am confident a solution can be found. I will continue to work closely with Kidney Care UK to ensure no dialysis patient is expected to fund the cost of hospital transport to access this life-saving treatment.
I also believe there needs to be greater integration of health and social care to enable people to be happy and healthy in their own homes. I am pleased Cornwall was chosen by the Government to be one of fourteen pioneer areas exploring how this integration could work and will continue to support the volunteers and professionals trailblazing this approach here.
It is surely important that we look at the whole range of NHS provision in Cornwall and ensure that they all work together to ensure the more efficient delivery across Cornwall. There is little point in making changes or cutting services to save money in one area if the outcome is simply adding more pressure and costs on another.
I have also been working to improve mental health services both within Cornwall and nationally, pushing for greater awareness, research and treatment. I am delighted to have been able to support many of the fantastic organisations within Cornwall providing care and support to people affected by mental health conditions, such as Pentreath, the Invictus Trust, the Wave Project and Natty Surf Jam. I am also proud to be supporting MQ’s national campaign for greater research to better understand and effectively treat mental health conditions.
I was pleased to welcome the announcement of the long-needed mental health in-patient unit for children and young people in Cornwall earlier this year. For too long we have had to see children and young people, at a time when they are most vulnerable, having to travel across the country to access badly needed support. This puts unbelievable strain both on them and their families, so a facility in Cornwall is absolutely essential.
Furthermore, Royal Cornwall Hospital is one of 74 sites from around the country that has been offered £30m as part of the ‘Core 24’ standard for mental health liaison, meaning a fully-staffed team will be operating 24/7 in the hospital, offering a one-hour response to emergency mental health referrals in A&E.
However, I recognise there is always more to do.
Although recent reports from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have painted Cornish NHS services in a bad light this is no reflection on the exceptional work carried out by frontline staff who I know care passionately about their patients. Instead this is because of poor systems and management which if corrected at a strategic level should see dramatic and tangible improvements for our services both in Treliske and in our communities.
Much of the problem is also caused by bed blocking due to problems with the Cornwall Council-led adult social care and I am pleased to see this has been recognised and additional resources given to Cornwall Council to improve both its Adult Social Care situation and also look at potentially running the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
With my Cornish MP colleagues I lobbied the Government for additional funding for Adult Social Care and was pleased to see announcement of the Improved Better Care Fund in March 2017. The Government granted Cornwall Council an additional £24m over the next three years for adult social care to go towards resolving these issues.
It is important to note the NHS is getting more money than ever both nationally and locally. This Government has increased funding for the NHS nationally in real terms and is set to continue to increase this funding going forward. In Cornwall, funding has also increased. Since the creation of NHS Kernow it has had a real terms increase in funding every year, which is projected to continue until at least 2020, which translates to an increase of over 20%.
I will continue to work with my Cornish MP colleagues, local health services, NHS England and the Government to ensure this money is spent effectively and the people of Cornwall get the quality of health services they deserve.