Constituents will have seen news headlines about the difficulties the NHS is experiencing in managing the overwhelming demand for services, especially emergency care services, in the last few weeks. I'm grateful to Jo Farrar, Chief Executive of Kingston Hospital and Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare, and to Bill Oldfield, Chief Medical Officer of Kingston Hospital for taking time out of their extremely busy schedules yesterday to give me an update on the situation in the local area.
Kingston Hospital A&E is experiencing exceptionally high demand at the current time. This is due to the increase in demand that we always see at this time of year, but exacerbated by an increase in the normal number of cases of seasonal flu. This increase in cases is mostly due to lowered immunity after two years of lockdown shielded us from exposure to new strains of the flu virus. High demand for A&E services is also resulting from difficulties some constituents are experiencing in getting appointments with their GP.
I would ask all constituents to consider the following:
Please get your seasonal flu jab if you haven't already - especially if you are in a vulnerable group. Information about the flu jab, including where you can get one, can be found here.
Please seek timely medical attention. A&E admissions are being boosted by people who waited to seek medical attention until their symptoms became critical.
Carefully consider the most suitable service for you to go to with a less-serious injury or illness. This may be your GP, a pharmacist or a minor injuries unit rather than A&E. If you aren't sure where to go, you can call 111 at any time for advice, or click here to see the options explained.
I want to pay tribute to the incredibly hard work of all our health service staff. The pressures that the service are currently under are largely the result of systemic issues that need a long term plan from the government in order to address. The Liberal Democrats are pressing for action to recruit new GPs, invest in hospital buildings and boost funding for social care to enable hospitals to make prompt discharges. We had also called for Parliament to be recalled this week so that the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health could report to MPs on their plans for addressing the current crisis. So far this week, they've had very little to say about what they plan to do.
I received the following message about local London Ambulance Service and Community First Responders from a constituent this week: "With the recent strikes and extra demand on the London Ambulance Service, I wanted to say how amazing they are doing. I had to contact them for my child on Christmas Day, and again on New Year's Eve for an elderly gentleman who collapsed in the street. For my child the ambulance arrived in 20 minutes. The second incident they came within four minutes! A first responder vehicle also arrived within about six minutes. Really incredible staff we have working on our London ambulance service!"
I will be tabling an Early Day Motion when Parliament returns next week to express the gratitude we all feel towards our health and social care staff, and to those who take on unpaid caring responsibilities at home, for keeping our hospital and community care services going during difficult times.
DISRUPTION TO RAIL SERVICES
This week, many stations across the constituency have been closed, including Mortlake, North Sheen, Richmond, New Malden and Kingston. Barnes Bridge and Barnes remained open with limited service. Full information on SWR services during strike action and rationale behind station closures is available here.
The latest round of national strike action on the railways will come to an end on Saturday 7th January. On Sunday 8th January, normal weekend services will resume but start slightly later than usual with the first trains departing from around 7.30am. District Line service on the Underground will also be suspended between Richmond and Turnham Green tomorrow, Saturday January 7.
There is no strike action planned for next week. Constituents are still advised to check your route before you travel using SWR’s journey planner, which can be accessed here.
I understand how frustrating this continued disruption is. I met with SWR just before Christmas to discuss their limited service offer and to relay constituent’s concerns. I remain in regular communication with SWR and I will continue to relay any further updates and information that I receive.
Above all, the Government need to get back to the negotiating table and work out a deal to get London moving. I have written to Rail Minister Huw Merriman to urge the Department for Transport to work with SWR to ease disruption to residents and local businesses. You can read a copy of this letter here.
BEVERLEY BROOK WALK
I made the most of the time between the festive season and Parliament returning next week to take myself out for a long walk. I chose the Beverley Brook trail, which follows the path of the waterway which - more or less - forms the eastern boundary of the Richmond Park constituency. The trail starts at New Malden station in the southeast corner of the constituency, and then continues north, along the banks of Beverley Brook, until it reaches the Thames at Barn Elms. A detailed leaflet of the route is here.
I found it remarkable that I could walk almost the entire eastern boundary of the constituency - a distance of approximately 7 miles - along publicly accessible green spaces, with hardly any of it spent walking next to traffic. The path goes from Wimbledon Common, through Richmond Park and Palewell Park, and then across the various green spaces in Barnes. Our constituency effectively has a green buffer zone all the way along its eastern edge. I highly recommend the route, and all its constituent parts, to anyone who - like me - needs a bit of fresh air and exercise to start the New Year. Although I should warn you that parts of it are extremely muddy, so do wear appropriate footwear.
Beverley Brook outflow into the Thames in Barnes
DONATE YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE
Shooting Star Children's Hospice is running a charity Christmas Tree Collection, from Saturday 7th – Monday 9th January 2023, in collaboration with Just Helping. They are encouraging people who live in TW9 and TW10 to recycle their real Christmas tree via the service. In return for a small donation, they will collect your tree in January and chip and recycle it in a sustainable method. The chippings then get used in local farms/landscapes. This website gives more details.
Richmond borough residents are being offered free bystander training to provide them with the tools to safely intervene when they see problematic behaviour towards women or girls occurring nearby.
Speaking up when you see wrongdoing happen can be difficult, but there are non-confrontational ways to stand up to violence against women and girls. As part of Richmond Council's strategy to prevent violence against women and girls, free training is being offered to all residents to help them safely challenge problematic behaviour when they see it and make the borough a safe place for everyone. For more information click here.
NEW FUNDING TO TACKLE HOMELESSNESS
Kingston has successfully secured £2.8million of Government funding through the Government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative to support some of the borough’s most vulnerable people. The three-year funding, allocated by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, will focus on early intervention for those sleeping rough and strengthening links with partners to put in place fast, effective help.
If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough anywhere, please call StreetLink on 0300 500 0914 or you can register and send an alert on their website. The team will then review and help connect them to a local outreach service and other support available to them.
NEW PUBLIC ART COMING TO KINGSTON
Together with internationally-renowned artists Gillie and Marc, on 26 January Kingston First will be bringing the ‘Chimps Are Family’ exhibition to Kingston - with a troop of adorable chimps to enjoy. The ten sculptures are made to be interactive, with QR codes to learn more about the animals and the importance of conservation to protect these endangered creatures. Find out more