Mrs May gives up crisps and our MP gives up biscuits for Lent!

Mrs Helen Whately, Member of Parliament for Faversham and Mid Kent which includes Hollingbourne writes:-

No more Hobnobs, ginger nuts or custard creams for me, I’ve given up biscuits for Lent. I’m also trying to exercise at least once a week – although my definition of exercise may have to include running from my office in Parliament to the division lobby for votes.

It’s probably no surprise that I spend much more time working on healthcare than I spend looking after my own health. I’ve been on rounds with care workers, visiting care homes, and speaking to a whole mix of people involved in health and social care to understand how we can make the system work better. Hospital staff tell me this has been the worst winter they can remember, with more patients coming to A&E than ever before. And shortages in community nursing and social care making it difficult to discharge patients, so hospitals have been exceptionally full.

Before the Budget I spoke to the Chancellor about the pressures on social care and asked him to find more money.  I’m pleased that he listened and committed £2 billion, with £1 billion up front this year. For Kent, that’ll be an extra £26 million in 2017/18 – enough to make a real difference.

But we also need a long-term plan for the care system, as people live longer and often with complicated health conditions. Part of the answer has to be health and social care working closer together and helping people stay out of hospital. There is work going on with exactly this aim, under the umbrella of the “Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Plan”. One of the ideas being discussed as part of this is a new Medical School in Kent – seizing the opportunity provided by the Government’s commitment to create 1500 new medical school places.

A Kent Medical School would enable us to train the doctors we need, attract the brightest and best to work in our hospitals, and be an important boost to Kent’s life sciences industry – making Kent a centre of excellence. I’ve been meeting Ministers to seek their support for this plan.

In the budget the Chancellor also talked about investing in infrastructure to support economic growth, with money going towards ‘pinch points’ in the road network. I’m lobbying for some of that funding to come our way, as traffic is making life a misery for many in Maidstone and surrounding villages like Langley, Bearsted and Downswood. Too many people tell me how the daily grind of sitting in long queues, being late for work and delayed getting home is becoming unbearable. At the same time, bus services are being withdrawn from growing villages like Langley. Nobody denies the need for more housing in the area, but with traffic so often at a standstill, it’s wrong to continue building without improving the infrastructure.

We also need a new local primary school by 2018 otherwise children could miss out on a school place close to home. I’ve been urging Kent County Council and the Education Funding Agency (EFA) to move as quickly on this, and they have now earmarked a site on the Kent Medical Campus near Bearsted. This progress is welcome, but I’m worried that the EFA suggest they are choosing between a primary school and a special school. In fact, we need both. I’ve heard from one parent from Maidstone whose child was only offered a place at a special needs school in Dover; life is difficult enough without having to make that kind of daily journey. I’m meeting the Schools Minister Lord Nash to enlist his help to make sure we get not just one but both schools in time for September 2018.

Helen Whately

Pictured below is Mrs Whately not eating a biscuit!