Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford 6:12 pm, 14th May 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Debbie Abrahams. First, I should probably declare an interest: I am the wife of a consultant oncologist, the sister of a consultant geriatrician, the daughter of a retired ophthalmologist and my late father was also a consultant geriatrician. They all dedicated their professional lives to the NHS.

The NHS is extremely precious and it is right that we should value it, and I for one was very proud to see a long-term plan for its future, taking it into the 21st century with unprecedented levels of funding and a focus on primary care, prevention, mental health and investing in staff and above all, as someone who cares deeply about science and research, a commitment to continue investing in science and innovation.

But in all large organisations there are areas that are going well and areas that need focus. In Mid Essex for many years there has been a difficulty recruiting GPs and experts in mental health, and I am delighted that this year we opened the first ever medical school in Chelmsford —the first ever in Essex, the first in a generation in the country—with 100 young students now nearly through their first year, specialising in general practice and mental health. From day one of their course they are on placements in local GP practices, becoming embedded in our primary care network. The places for next year at Anglia Ruskin medical school in Chelmsford are already 12 times oversubscribed; it is that popular.

I also met our mental health network last Friday and they told me about some amazing stuff that has already been introduced since the announcement of the long-term plan. They are doing new work on perinatal mental health, identifying mums-to-be who are at risk of post-natal depression or are depressed and working with them before the babies are even born. They are introducing a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week crisis and urgent care service, which will be in place by the end of this year, along with new early intervention on psychosis and more work on dementia and on placing mental health practitioners directly into the primary care networks. These new networks will bring GPs together so that they can work with their neighbouring practices, allowing those practices to get more specialist care into the primary care networks, thus helping prevention. This will include specialists in physiotherapy and in medicines reviews, specialist district nurses and specialists in areas such as chiropody and diabetes, all of whom will be able to work locally.

I am concerned, however, that we are struggling locally with recruiting nurses, especially at hospital level, where a number of nurse places have been vacant for a long time. We have to be honest with our constituents about this: a number of the EU staff have left the UK, and we need to resolve the uncertainty over Brexit. We need to reassure the staff that we care for them. There has been a drop-off in the number of people applying to nursing college, particularly among older people, and that needs to be resolved. I am also concerned to hear from many of the senior doctors in my constituency about the impact that pensions and taxation are having on them.

On the positive side, I have heard about new treatments, especially for diabetes. My diabetic patients can now get continuous glucose monitors, which they have never been able to have before. However, other treatments are still needed. My poor constituent Cait is nine years old and she desperately needs Kuvan for her phenylketonuria. It would also prevent many other diseases. Any other country in Europe would prescribe it, but we do not.

We are the world leader in many areas of medical research—we lead the world in genomics, for example—but we must ensure that the treatments that are developed here are prescribed here, otherwise, we will lose that research. One area of research that particularly impressed me was dementia research. We were told on a recent visit that a quarter of dementia cases might be preventable, but that will involve understanding the condition much earlier—decades before the symptoms become evident. We need to be able to identify those at risk and ensure that they get the right treatment. That is why I am so pleased by the long-term plan. It is already putting those words into action to ensure that we can deliver a world-class NHS for the future.