Richmond Park News: 26 November 2021
HEALTH AND CARE BILL
On Tuesday I spoke in the House of Commons debate on the Health and Care Bill. Many of my constituents have written to me about various section of the bill, so I was pleased to be able play a key role in the debate. While I was pleased with some aspects of the bill, I was disappointed with others, including the fact that it doesn't address NHS staffing issues. I supported an amendment to the bill that would have corrected this omission.
Access to healthcare services is an issue frequently raised with me by residents across Richmond Park, who are struggling to get a GP appointment, a vaccination at home, or mental health care for themselves or their children. Patients across the country are having to wait hours for an ambulance or months for necessary procedures. I have discussed this with local health service leaders, all of whom have told me about the lack of qualified staff available to fill the roles they are offering.
The problem is partially related to the pandemic, but Brexit is a contributing factor as well. Many young Europeans went to their home countries at the start of lockdown and have not returned. Brexit has stymied our ability to recruit from the EU, cutting off an extremely important supply for the labour market. The effect is being felt most markedly in health and social care.
These problems, however, are also the result of a long-term failure by the Government to predict or prepare for workforce demand.
The amendment I supported would have required the Government to assess workforce needs regularly and lay out how they plan to meet them.
Health visitors, for example, play a critical role in supporting babies and their families. The cost of poor parental mental health in the first year of life may be as much as £8 billion. Boosting our health visiting workforce would more than pay for itself in a very short time.
We also need to invest more in our care workforce. Carers' contracts often restrict them from working for more than one agency, which may itself only offer them a zero-hours contract. Care workers are expected to drive from resident to resident without being paid for their travel time, depressing their actual hourly wages to well below the minimum wage. We need to value our care staff more and improve their pay, terms and conditions.
You can see clips of my contributions to the debate on workforce challenges here, predicting workforce demand here, the vital importance of health visitors here, and the full Hansard transcripts here.
On Wednesday I had the opportunity to pose a question to Minister of State for Transport Andrew Stephenson during Transport Questions.
I asked the Minister explain how the new integrated rail plan, with its reduced ambitions for HS2, is going to increase capacity and connectivity and reduce fares, to encourage more people to travel by train.
You can see my question here, or see the text of my question and Minister's response explaining their future intentions here.
COMMERCIAL RENT BILL
I also spoke on Wednesday in support of the Commercial Rent Bill. I hope to see this passed swiftly, to benefit the many businesses in Richmond Park that have struggled to pay their rent over the past twenty months. Some landlords and tenants have been able to make arrangements for how rent payments will be made, but many have not been able to do so. More arbitration will be needed, and arbitrators will need to be able to effectively assess whether a business would have been viable if it were not for the pandemic. This bill needs more detail on how they are to do so.
With so many different pressures on businesses at the moment, many of my retail businesses are experiencing difficulties. They are struggling to get stock because of the goods transport crisis and Brexit rules. They are also faced with increased energy costs, a skills shortage, and uncertainty about future pandemic measures.
I welcome this Bill, but I would like to see the Government do more to help our retail, hospitality, leisure and personal services sectors, and to support our vital high street communities. I am especially keen for the Government to ban the upward-only rent review clause often written into new leases. And I want to see the long-promised business rates review.
I support this bill, but there is more that could be done. You can see a clip of my contribution to this debate here or see the full text of the debate here
NEW BREAST CANCER DRUG
I joined many other MPs this week in calling for all eligible triple negative secondary breast cancer patients to be given access to a promising new drug called Trodelvy. The cross-party letter calls on pharmaceutical company Gilead to provide free-of-charge access to this new treatment until NICE reaches a decision on access next year.
Trodelvy could offer women living with triple negative secondary breast cancer the hope of extra months with loved ones. Unless Gilead takes action, hundreds of women in England may have to wait up to six months to access Trodelvy, until a NICE decision next year. You can see the full, signed letter here.
BARNES BUSINESS VISITS
Last Friday I joined Emma Robinson, the Barnes Town Centre manager, to visit some independent shops in Barnes. Ronnie at Michael's Newsagents, our first stop, was particularly keen to send his thanks to his customers for all their support as business picks up.
We also visited the Pizza Bar in Castelnau. They have been hit hard by the closure of Hammersmith Bridge and the resulting difficulties delivering to Hammersmith and Fulham. Then we visited Elderflower, new food store specialising in organic, vegan and specialist diet foods. They opened last summer and have been well received by local customers. I was happy to see their e-cargo bike in use!
VISIT TO SMALL STEPS
Last week I also had the opportunity to meet Anita and Andrea, the Headteacher and Chair at Small Steps.
Small Steps is a charity that assists children up to age five with physical disabilities, using the Conductive Education method. Teachers work to help the children gain physical skills, including mobility, but also social, communication and other skills. Small Steps is an independent charity dependent on individual donations. If you would like to learn more about what they do, or donate to them, you can do so here.
NEW POST OFFICE IN BARNES