Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Conservative, Redditch 6:02 pm, 14th May 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Dr Williams, but I want to put it on the record that Conservative Members understand and appreciate the importance of public health. I have heard several contributions from hon. Friends about exactly that. I am grateful that public health is at the heart of the long-term plan for the national health service and that investment is already going into it.

My constituents would not forgive me if I did not start by talking about the Alex Hospital in Redditch, which is the No. 1 concern for me and my constituents. Yes, we are having a debate about public health, but this takes its place at the heart of that. It is not just about funding—a lot of money has been invested in the Alex for wards, infrastructure and facilities thanks to all our lobbying, but that is not enough; it is about how that money is managed across the trust. Unfortunately, services were centralised in Worcester, and that is not working for my constituents. I welcome the Minister to her place, but she will definitely receive more visits and correspondence from me on this issue. I have an Adjournment debate tomorrow night, so I will not steal my own thunder, but I want to place it on the record that it is very much about leadership, making services work across a county and getting the right outcomes for patients and my constituents.

One of the causes close to my heart is the menopause. Anyone who has been watching BBC’s “Breakfast” programme this week will know it is featuring it as part of its menopause week. It is brilliant that people are brave enough to talk about their experiences. This is a taboo subject, but we are starting to talk about it in this Chamber, and I have received cross-party support, which is fantastic. This goes to the heart of what we are talking about: prevention and public health. It is about educating primary care providers and GPs to do the right thing when prescribing for women entering the perimenopause and the menopause and to understand that it is not just about having hot flushes and those other stereotypical symptoms but that there can be hundreds of different symptoms. Every woman is different. There is widespread ignorance, but when women visit their GPs, very simple treatment should be available. This does not cost money. It is just a question of ensuring that GPs are in the right place to prescribe what those women need: treatment that will make a transformative difference to their lives, and will enable them to continue to contribute at work as well as in their families and communities. I hope that the Minister will recognise the importance of this issue, because it affects not only women; it affects every man who has to work with a woman or is related to a woman. That fact is often hidden, and we need to break down the stigma to an even greater extent.

My third point concerns technology. We are talking about prevention, and technology plays an important role in that. I have been a tech entrepreneur, and I was delighted to learn about a service called GP at Hand, which was released recently. I have been using it, and it has made a massive difference to me. We are all stuck here, and I do not know about other Members, but I find it very hard to make an appointment to see my GP. However, I have an app on my phone. I need only log on, and I can secure an appointment within five or 10 minutes.

Let me add, before Members jump up and say it, that we all know that that service will not work for everyone. Of course it will not work for complex patients and vulnerable people who are not able to use technology. However, if it can work for people who are confident and comfortable with technology and can embrace it, it will make a huge difference in freeing up more resources for the patients who need more care and support in the GP’s surgery. I think that the two services can work side by side. What we need to do in the long-term plan for the future is embrace what technology can do and spread that across the country. There needs to be a real impetus behind solutions such as GP at Hand which provide more time for talking to people who need a lot of support, including mental health support. It really is a brilliant service, and it is free to use in London. I believe that it is being piloted, and I very much hope that it will extend across the country.

I commend the Government’s efforts, and their focus on public health. Let us not forget that if it were not for a Government who sorted out the economy and enabled it to grow, we would not have this multi-billion-pound investment. I believe that £157 billion of public money will have been invested in the NHS by 2023.