Weekly Round-Up :: 03 March 2023

The power sharing agreement in Northern Ireland collapsed many months ago and this has been caused, in part, by the agreement struck between Boris Johnson and the European Union over goods entering and leaving the island of Ireland post-Brexit. Rishi Sunak recently announced a new deal agreed with the EU. The hope of the UK Government is that this will bring the communities of Northern Ireland and their parties back into Stormont and ensure a functioning Assembly returns. As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ireland and the Irish in Britain, I am glad to see the UK Government taking steps to resolve this situation and noting the importance of the Good Friday Agreement. It is important that all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement are respected. This must include protecting North-South working relationships and East-West relationships.

There was a debate this week in Parliament on the Tories failure to train and retain enough staff to tackle the worst workforce crisis in the history of the NHS. We currently have a shortage of 9,000 hospital doctors and a staggering 47,000 nurses. Many constituents will be aware that I spent most of my career before becoming an MP in NHS management roles and so am acutely aware of the issues facing the NHS. NHS managers are not always popular, but are critical to having an effective and efficient service. It is not the time to cull local mangers as Health Secretaries often call for. The NHS is facing industrial relations at an all-time low, capacity and demand massively out of kilter, a physical estate that is literally crumbling, £10 billion-worth of backlogs, and unsurprisingly, morale at dangerously low levels. For too long the Tories have valued inputs into the NHS over patient outcomes. We must put the public, patients and managers at the heart of NHS decision making so we can improve outcomes for all.

The Tories like to push the narrative that the NHS is too broken to fix. But we all that the reality is the Tories are too broken to fix the NHS. We have to start with staff. Exhausted and demoralised staff deserve much better. We need to train more nurses, health care assistants, midwives, doctors to ensure staffing levels can cope with the demand. Then managers and staff can work together to figure out the issues that they face locally – whether it’s a prevalence of falls among the elderly, harmful use of alcohol, or excess weight management – and to put in place the measures that will support them deal with demand.

As many of you know, I’ve long campaigned for improvements to trailer safety on our roads. Sadly, the Tories recently ripped up safety regulations. This week the Government published a report into trailer compliance. It showed that of the 3,083 trailers that were checked, 50% were non-compliant and 41% had issues that would require immediate repairs before they could be used on the roads again. Because of the changes in law, drivers without towing training are now free to roam the roads. With non-compliance rates in trailers so high this is a recipe for disaster for road safety. I warned them at the time and now the evidence has proved us correct. We must have better trailer safety – too many lives are being needlessly put at risk for something that is easily rectified. We all expect cars on the road to be MOT’d to protect other road users and they are removed if they are found to be defective. It should be the same with trailers.

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.