We’ve had a full blast of winter weather since the start of the year, with Storm Eleanor in particular, causing damage across Kent, and leaving many homes in New Romney without electricity. I would like to thank all those who worked so hard to deal with the disruption caused by the storm. The winter also places additional pressures on the health service. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, presented his budget in November, he recognised the need for additional NHS funding over the winter months. As a result of this, the Government is supporting the NHS this winter with an additional £437 million as well as providing an extra £1 billion in social care funding this year. Overall, the levels of funding for the NHS in 2018 will be £12 billion higher in real terms than in 2010.
East Kent has been one of the areas of the country to be affected outbreaks of Australian flu. This is something that we have to deal with each year, in some form or another, but this year the government has extended the flu vaccination programme for the winter. More people than ever before are eligible for a free flu jab. The NHS has increased the number of jabs available to young children in schools and those who are most vulnerable to flu. The government has also made improvements to hospital capacity and there will be the equivalent of at least 1,000 additional beds due to our efforts to reduce delayed transfers of care. Whilst the winter months will always bring pressure on the health service, work has been done by the Department for Health and NHS England to anticipate and prepare for where the extra resources are needed. The Director of Acute Care at NHS England, Professor Keith Willett has stated that the NHS is better prepared than ever before for winter, saying that ‘We’ve gone into this winter in a way that we’ve never prepared before, so we went into the winter before Christmas having cancelled fewer elective operations than we had previously, discharges from hospital were at a lower level than they had been previously, so we were better prepared.’
Our local South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), is also overseeing the recommissioning of the services from the GP surgery at Church Lane, New Romney. Two years ago, along with New Romney Town Council, I pressed for new leadership for this practice, and this led to the appointment of Invicta Health, a community interest group owned by East Kent GPs, on an eighteen-month contract to improve services at the surgery. It was always planned that the CCG would offer a permanent contract for the Church Lane surgery, and that is what they are consulting on now. The New Romney GP services are of vital importance to the community, and I hope we will see a long term contract for their delivery awarded soon. I will be meeting with the Chair of the CCG to discuss the process, and I would encourage local residents to contact me, or them, if you have any questions about this.