Weekly Round-Up

Happy New Year to all constituents in Bristol South! It’s been a busy and controversial start to the year with new revelations about parties and gatherings in Downing Street and the answers and half-hearted ‘regrets’ from the Prime Minister have been anything but satisfactory. While doctors, nurses and care workers were working under immense pressure, dressed head to toe in constricting and uncomfortable PPE, while families were saying goodbye to loved ones over zoom unable to hold their hands or give them a kiss, the Prime Minister and his staff believed themselves above the laws they had set for the rest of the country. There are plenty of challenges ahead as we deal with the impact of Covid and a decade of underfunding for the NHS and social care.  We need a competent leader with integrity to manage that. It is time for this Prime Minister to resign. 

I joined a meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on our inquiry into governance in this country and the transparency rules that ensure conflicts of interest are identified, and that there is regulation of access by current and former politicians and officials. We questioned Lord Evans, the Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, on the efficacy of the job that Lord Geidt, as Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, has been able to do in his inquiry into the financing of the refurbishments made to Johnson’s Downing Street flat. Lord Evans has suggested, quite extraordinarily, that the correct information was not provided to Lord Geidt when he was undertaking inquiries.  Officials and advisers must not be able to pick and choose the information they hand over in investigations such as these. We must have clarity in this case and the Prime Minister must ensure his advisers and staff are complying fully with the demands of this and any other investigation that is undertaken. 

It’s been a busy week in my role as Shadow Social Care Minister. On Tuesday I attended a Labour Party roundtable with health experts along with Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. We discussed the immediate problems facing the NHS, particularly around staffing, and how they could be resolved, as well as the strategies that will ensure the NHS is fit for the care of the UK In the 21st century. Lifestyles have changed dramatically since the NHS was first formed and there are a great many new aspects of health that previously were not considered under the purview of the NHS. Mental health in particular has a much greater impact on our physical health than perhaps was ever understood and it is important that our health services are able to care for and support the needs of patients both physically and mentally. 

I was also pleased to meet with Stephen Beet, the Director of Adult Social Services for Bristol City Council, Councillor Helen Holland and Oonagh Smyth, CEO of Skills for Care. Social care is not something that should be considered as an afterthought or separate from the main work of the NHS. Without adequate provision for social care in the community, the NHS are required to take on an extra task that both takes resources away from urgent medical care and takes adults with particular needs out of the comfort and security of their own homes. We need to ensure that we respect the value of social care and provide the resources that are needed to build social care within communities. Part of that is ensuring we have a workforce that is large enough to cope with the demand and that is respected among society. For too long our vital carers have been considered low-skilled and have received low pay. I would argue that it is an incredibly skilled job as not only do they need a variety of medical care skills, they need the people skills and the mental resilience that are required for such a care-oriented role. I would encourage anyone who thinks they are kind, caring, compassionate, with a love of working with people to consider whether they might enjoy social care and take a look at the Skills for Care website.

I know that many constituents, both as patients and medical staff, are concerned about access to GP services in the area. I was pleased to meet with GP’s in an online meeting to discuss the current issues facing surgeries in the area. GP surgeries are an essential service, but they are not the only medical service available. Too few people I think realise the help and support that can be found in your local pharmacy who are often the best first port of call with issues as they can provide advice on many ailments. As well as GPs, advice can be sought from the 111 helpline, especially during out of hours when you are not in need of an emergency ambulance. We have some truly fantastic doctors and nurses in Bristol South who are committed to ensuring that the community has the best care possible. They were keen to stress that GP surgeries remain open and that patients must not be afraid to come forward and discuss with them any concerning symptoms or changes in their bodies. We know how important early detection is in the treatment of various illnesses, especially cancer, so I would remind constituents to contact their GP surgeries sooner rather than later if they are concerned about anything. 

If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing Karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 0117 953 3575.