Yesterday I had the pleasure to be the guest on the BBC Radio Suffolk Lesley Dolphin show. During my interview I discussed a range of topics including my first week in Parliament, opportunities for people with special educational needs, closures to the Orwell Bridge and long term fixes to our rail network. You can listen to the full interview below.
Today I met with Caroline and Jonathan from boots Ipswich to discuss the recently launched NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).
In the first 10 weeks of the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), a total of 114,275 patients with minor illnesses, or those who urgently needed medicines, were directed from NHS 111 to a consultation with their local pharmacist.
The scheme, which launched last October, has already helped to relieve pressure on the wider NHS, including GP surgeries, by connecting patients with community pharmacists.
The pharmacy first approach makes life easier for patients and will help reduce pressure in the NHS. Patients with minor illnesses assessed closer to home, saving them unnecessary trips to A&E or their local GP surgery, and helping people get the care and advice they need quicker. We want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.
The government confirmed the consultation service is expected to expand to referrals from general practice by the end of 2020, subject to successful evaluation of pilots.
Tom Hunt MP – “I am disappointed that the public consultation launched today indicates that the new Orthopaedic Centre for elective surgeries will not be based in Ipswich. Since the merger with Colchester Hospital there have been some positive developments; most notably that a brand new £35 million state of the art Accident and Emergency department will open its doors to Ipswich residents in 2022.
In my second speech in Parliament, I made it clear that I would take on a “watchdog” role to ensure that Ipswich benefits as much as possible from the merger with Colchester Hospital. I said that if it’s the case that the Orthopaedic centre is based in Colchester then it’s imperative that there is not a negative impact on Ipswich. Our hospital currently has a first class reputation and service when it comes to orthopaedic surgery. However, I do have concerns that the proposed changes could negatively impact the quality of this work; concerns which need to be addressed during the consultation.
I appreciate that assurances have been made that all appointments for Ipswich residents, other than the actual surgery, will take place at Ipswich Hospital and that any emergency surgery will continue to take place at Ipswich Hospital too. What is unclear is how the immediate post-operative care at Colchester Hospital will differ to the experience that patients have currently.
The reality is that many people in Ipswich are worried that the merger with Colchester Hospital could start to negatively affect our hospital. It is imperative that first class surgeons continue to choose Ipswich Hospital as a place they want to be based. It is early days when it comes to fully assessing the merger of Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals although there have clearly been some teething problems.
Following my speech in Parliament I have held discussions with a Health Minister and have invited him to meet me in Ipswich to discuss these matters.
When it comes to the interests of Ipswich residents, I will always speak directly to make sure we get the support and services that people expect. I know how important our hospital is for the town and I will do everything as the MP to support it. The Government is well aware of my determination on this issue and I look forward to welcoming the minister to Ipswich very soon.”
Today (12/02/2020) Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, gave a speech in the Westminster Hall debate on leaseholders and cladding following numerous calls for help from residents of St Francis Tower in Ipswich. He pledged to fight like a lion to get the Government to step in and save leaseholders from the prospect of costs of over £20,000 each for cladding replacement and fire safety works.
The issues around cladding at St Francis Tower was raised in one of Tom’s first surgeries with constituents as a newly elected MP. In that meeting and since, residents of the Tower have been in contact with him, detailing the great frustration and uncertainty they are still experiencing since the Grenfell tragedy in 2017 set off alarm bells about St Francis Tower’s cladding.
Tom plainly set out the issues which have made residents feel “trapped” to the Government in his speech. In respect to the huge costs faced by leaseholders to make the block safe, Tom made it clear that it must be the freeholders who did the dangerous refurbishment, not the leaseholders, who must take responsibility for the cost. While the freeholders are chased, the Government should expand its £200 million scheme for the removal of ACM cladding (the type on Grenfell tower) to include the just as dangerous ACM cladding which was on St Francis Tower. Tom said: “There is absolutely no logical reason why [residents of St Francis Tower] should be treated in any different way to those who live in properties where the cladding is ACM.” This is a crucial point of fairness for residents of St Francis Tower.
Tom also stressed the poor communication from Block Management, the company managing the building, to his constituents who live there. Hunt said Block Management’s communication has almost served to inflame residents’ anxieties and tensions rather than soothe them. This has compounded their ordeal.
Hunt conveyed the distress this ongoing issue has caused the residents of St Francis Tower. He told Westminster Hall how leaseholders had seen the price of their properties collapse and how the bill they are being told to pay is about a third of the cost of the properties themselves. Tom has heard from constituents who have savings and investments tied up in the flats and who are now unable to move home, get a return on their investment, or cash in their savings. Many of them are stuck, not just financially but also emotionally.
Following his speech, Tom said:
“Over 100 of my constituents live in St Francis Tower and they have had this issue hanging over their head for far too long. It’s clearly a process which has been emotionally and financially draining for them and that’s why I called on the Government today to step in. Money should be made available for the replacement of cladding of the type found on St Francis Tower on the same basis that money is available to replace the type of cladding that was on Grenfell Tower – especially given it’s just as dangerous.”
“This is what needs to happen in the short-term to provide residents with some much needed certainty but in the long-term I encourage the Government to track down the freeholders responsible for the dangerous refurbishments to recoup the cost. These are the people who were supposed to have knowledge of the issue and who should have obeyed the regulations at the time – not the leaseholders. It’s unjustifiable that it is now on leaseholders to pay the huge costs caused by this catalogue of errors which is entirely not their fault.
“I will continue my close contact with St Francis Tower residents and will not stop raising this issue with Government. I stand by them in demanding clearer communication from Block Management and resolving a situation where one of their most valuable assets is completely frozen.”
A lot of people have written into me about pubs and their concerns that the current tax regime doesn’t allow our local pubs to thrive. I’ve had some of my best moments in Ipswich at our pubs and I share their concerns that high beer duty and business rates are causing pubs to struggle and in some cases even shut down.
I recently represented this view in Parliament including the comment of one landlord I spoke to who said he felt more like a tax collector than a small business owner.
I’ve called on the Government to get behind landlords and pubs in the next budget as the current system does not work.
Pubs employ around 1,500 people in Ipswich and are great venues for the community to come together over a drink – jobs, landlords and community must be at the heart of reform.