I started the week with a meeting with Baroness Vere as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Trailer and Towing Safety where we discussed the long-running campaign to improve trailer and road safety and the new voluntary accreditation scheme. I believe the Government’s move to remove the requirement for additional tests for towing a trailer between 750kg and 3,500kg, without assessing the possible risks to the safety of other drivers and pedestrians, could have negative consequences for road safety. A voluntary scheme will lack regulatory power and relies on businesses and individuals to “do the right thing”. However, now the law change has been made, I agreed with the Minister that we need to work together to make the new scheme work. I am pleased the Baroness confirmed her attendance of the AGM of our APPG on 3 February to provide an update to all members.
This week I was pleased to be able to speak in Health Questions in my first question from the front bench team on the issue of delayed discharge from hospital. Around 10,000 medically fit people are currently in hospital when they should be at home with their families or in a supported setting. That is a tragedy for them and a mark of shame on this Government. Short-term cash, taskforces or threatening legal action are not solutions. Social care support is a lifeline not a luxury, so I called on the Government to now work with us cross-party in line with the joint Select Committee report of 2018 to bring forward immediate change and offer hope and respite to those receiving and giving social care. Hospitals should be for the treatment of those requiring hospital care only. It is a waste of hospital resources and detrimental to the mental health of those remaining in hospital beyond their need to do so. The Government must recognise the value of social care workers and ensure that the incentives to join this profession are fair.
I was pleased to then meet with Carers UK, a support charity for unpaid carers across the UK. 6.5 million people in the UK are carers – that’s 1 in every 8 adults who cares for a loved one and does so without pay. Caring is part of being human, but for many who care for a loved one living with illness or a disability, they can feel stretched to the limit – still juggling work, family life, their own health alongside their new caring responsibilities. Carers UK provide vital help and support – they offer information, support with complicated paperwork, or simply provide a person to talk to. They do such fantastic work and the Government must do more to ensure that our unpaid carers are supported by professionals and that those they are caring for are receiving all the care they need to ensure they continue to live fulfilled and happy lives.
I recently wrote to the Prime Minister about the crisis in NHS dentistry in Bristol South. Access to NHS dentistry in Bristol South, and indeed in the wider Bristol area, has become increasingly challenging over the last 18 months. As more and more dentists switch to private practice only, constituents who are NHS patients are increasingly unable to access treatment. I know that dental practices have faced huge challenges over the last two years, with staff shortages and difficulties accessing much-needed PPE, but normal people are paying the price now. This has become a health inequality issue with lower-income families unable to pay for dental treatment. Over the last 18 months I have contacted ministers on a number of occasions raising this urgent issue, I have been told that money is being put into the sector, but this won’t have an effect on NHS dentistry accessibility until years down the line. A plan needs to be put in place to address the issue now.
In Bristol South there is so much anger about the revelations about Downing Street parties, which I completely understand. I am disgusted, in particular, by the excuses being given that Downing Street staff had been working so hard. I cannot imagine how they think that is acceptable given the images we have grown used to seeing of doctors and nurses after their shifts, with red marks on their faces from their PPE and their eyes showing their utter exhaustion. We as a country deserve a much, much better leadership and a government that shows decency and integrity.
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