With just one week to go until the South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair, the full list of exhibitors has been unveiled.
The fair, which takes place at City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove from 11am-3pm on Thursday 27 February, brings together some of the city’s biggest employers, training providers and organisations that support people with apprenticeships.
From public sector services such as Avon & Somerset Police, HMRC and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust to key local businesses including Babcock International, Fowlers motorcycle dealership and Jeffway Electrical Services, recruiters and apprentices will be on hand to talk about the opportunities available (see below for full list).
Organised by Bristol South MP Karin Smyth in partnership with City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, the event is the only one of its kind in South Bristol.
Karin says: “I’ve been organising this event with the college for four years now and each year we see new employers and organisations coming on board. We’ve got a good mix of employers from Bristol South and beyond and the colleges and support agencies which can help you with your career. It’s one of the highlights of the year for me – a chance to talk to employers and apprentices as well as parents, grandparents and students and learn more about their experiences.”
Award-winning apprentice Jess Perrett completed a carpentry apprenticeship with On Site and Bristol City Council. She is now working towards a higher national certificate in construction.
The 25-year-old from Knowle said: “I wanted to do an apprenticeship because I wasn’t enjoying my A levels and wanted to try something else that’s wasn’t classroom based and a more practical hands on approach. The knowledge I have gained is not only applicable to my work life but to my home life. With this insight, I’ve managed to renovate two properties and about to start my third.”
21st Century Building Services which also takes on apprentices via On Site explains how apprenticeships are of benefit to them.
Claire Stockham, from the Bedminster based business, said: “As a business we have always appreciated the value of training and developing our employees and have found this has contributes greatly to having such a committed and loyal team. Our Managing Director started as an apprentice and has invested in apprenticeships from day one of the business. Being able to find the right people and help them train and develop means we can ensure that we have the very best people working for us.”
Andy Forbes, Principal of City of Bristol College, which helps train hundreds of apprentices each year and has just started work on a new Advanced Construction Skills Centre, added: “We are really looking forward to welcoming such a wide range of employers to our South Bristol Skills Academy. Apprenticeships at City of Bristol College have so much to offer. The chance to earn money while you learn is an attractive option, and in many areas you can now do apprenticeships right up to university level. Hope to see you there!”
The South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020, organised by Karin Smyth MP, City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and DWP, takes place from 11am-3pm on Thursday 27 February at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove, Bristol. It’s free to attend and there’s no need to book – just drop by.
With the event just over a week away, Karin heard from employers in Bristol South about their experiences of apprenticeships. Here’s what they had to say…
Tell us more about the apprenticeships scheme you offer – how many apprentices do you take on each year, what do they cover and how long are they with you?
We offer Electrical and Carpentry apprenticeships and normally offer between 1 and 2 places per year . This year we may not be taking on additional apprentices as we currently have 6 apprentices working towards their qualifications. They are at various stages of their training and are spread between years one two and three of their qualifications. We also have one lad who completed his apprenticeship with us early this year and is now progressing well as a fully qualified Electrician and is a valued part of our team and we hope to offer him additional training this year to progress his career.
We always aim for out apprentices to achieve a NVQ level 3 apprenticeship as in the building trade this is the gold standard to which we expect all employees to hold. We try and instil in them that they will learn from every person they come into contact during their training with whether that be the office team, site cleaners labourers or different tradespeople or site mentor there is always something new to learn.
The carpentry apprentices train for 3 years and the electrical apprentices 4 years both are 1 day a week at college and 4 days a week on site. We ensure that we can commit enough of our experienced tradespeople to train and oversee our apprentices and we review this every year before we commit to taking on an additional apprentice.
An apprenticeship is not an easy option as it requires a huge amount of hard work and commitment but the rewards at the end are great and we aim for our apprentices to aim high and to become the very best that they can be; whether they want to remain doing their trade long term maybe train future apprentices or become senior Managers , Site Managers or whatever route they wish . Many of our current Contract Managers and Site Managers started with us apprentices and as a family business we like to ensure that from the day a new apprentice starts with us they feel part of the team and see that with lots of hard work they can achieve anything they aim for.
Are they suitable for all ages?
Most of our apprentices join us at age 16 but we have also taken on apprentices at 18 and 19.
What kind of people are you looking for?
The most important thing we look for is a real interest in the trade that they have chosen and this has proved the key to the success of the team of apprentices that we have training with us currently. At the interview stages we ask everyone to bring in a project that they have worked on either at school or at home that can talk to us about and which demonstrates an interest in their chosen apprenticeship.
As an example one of the Carpentry apprentices that we currently have with us bought in the plans for a seat that he was making out of old skateboards and one also bought in an excellent tool box that he had made. At their interview they could both talk with a real passion about their interest in carpentry. We also look for young people that can show a real commitment to their studies and work and who are willing to work hard to achieve their qualification.
We often find that the young people who we take on have already committed to part time jobs or voluntary roles whether that be as paper delivery people or helping out in local shops or cleaning at their school anything that demonstrates a good work ethic.
Why did you go down the apprenticeships route?
As a business we have always appreciated the value of training and developing our employees and have found this has contributes greatly to having such a committed and loyal team.
Our MD started as an apprentice and has invested in apprenticeships from day one of the business. Being able to find the right people and help them train and develop means we can ensure that we have the very best people working for us . Working with Onsite Bristol has been brilliant and they have made the process of employing and training apprentices very easy they offer fantastic support both to the apprentices and ourselves.
What’s the best thing about having apprentices?
They offer a different perspective on things they have fresh new ideas. They bring a huge amount of enthusiasm and positivity and are the future of the business
Working with young people isn’t always easy but with the support of Onsite we know that we have experts on hand to help with any issues that can crop up and we offer an open door policy so that all our team know who they can speak to if they are having any problems and we try and address any issues as soon as they happen. We have found that over the years we have made our interview process very robust and it is a credit to the young people we have taken on that they have handled this so well as often they attend up to 3 interviews with us and a practical assessment and interviews and tests with Onsite before we take them on.
We have a zero tolerance approach of the apprentices training to things like mobile phone use and getting paperwork in on time this has undoubtedly made it much smoother for their training as they know what we expect from them from day one.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying for an apprenticeship with you?
Go for it, do some research , speak to people in the trade, speak to as many people as you can and find out what they enjoy about their job, know what you want to do and do something that interests you, work hard, be reliable, be enthusiastic and willing to learn and you can achieve whatever you want.
It’s been years in the making but, thanks to a collaborative effort, the Advanced Construction Skills Centre in Hengrove is one step closer to completion following a turf cutting ceremony at the site next to City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy.
Karin, who has been pushing for this new facility for her constituents since becoming an MP in 2015, joined new City of Bristol College Principal Andy Forbes, West of England Combined Authority (WECA) Mayor Tim Bowles and Midas Group Chairman Steve Hindley for a turf cutting ceremony on Friday 14 February. She chatted with young carpentry apprentices and got a virtual reality tour of the new building.
Mr Forbes, who recently took over as Principal, thanked Karin for her ongoing support for the college and the role she played in getting the new centre here in Bristol South. Mr Bowles, who runs WECA which helped fund the new centre also thanked Karin for championing the cause. Mr Hindley, a former governor at City of Bristol College said he was delighted that Midas Group would be leading on the construction of this £9m centre, which would in turn train the future workforce in that industry.
Karin, speaking at the launch event, said: “We know that, because of transport issues and a lack of big employers locally, it’s very hard for young people in Bristol South to get a decent job, get decent training and then get the money they need to have a decent life. The transport in this city does not work for people here in south Bristol. This Advanced Skills Construction Centre has a key role to play in giving local people training that is based right here at this fantastic skills academy.
“I’ve fought hard to help ensure we get this facility here in Bristol South. Today is a culmination of our collaborative effort – between the college myself, the college, Bristol City Council and WECA. I brought the Conservative Minister Robert Halford here a couple of years ago to see the college and I took him to the window upstairs and said ‘that site down there, we need that site for the construction centre’. I’m delighted that we are now seeing real progress with this and look forward to seeing the centre built and open to learners next year.”
Karin added: “We’ve also got the apprenticeships and jobs fair happening here in a couple of weeks time – again, that’s a good collaboration between myself and the college, the city council and DWP. I hope to see you there!.”
For more information on the apprenticeships fair taking place on Thursday 27 February, click here.
For more information on the new skills centre, due to open in September 2021, click here.
The South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020, organised by Karin Smyth MP, City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and DWP, takes place from 11am-3pm on Thursday 27 February at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove, Bristol. It’s free to attend and there’s no need to book – just drop by.
With the event just a couple of weeks away, Karin heard from apprentices across Bristol South about their experiences of apprenticeships. Here’s what they had to say…
Rafferty Maitland-King (pictured above), 17, from Knowle – Apprentice Carpenter
When studying Design & Technology: Resistant Materials at Ashton Park secondary school, Rafferty discovered a love of woodwork and went on to become an Onsite apprentice carpenter with the Bedminster-based 21st Century Building Services.
He says: “I took resistant materials as a GCSE and I really enjoyed working with wood and making things. My mum actually brought up the idea of an apprenticeship as I am more of a practical person and college wasn’t really what I wanted to pursue; I wanted to get a trade and a career.
“I am currently on level 2 of the apprenticeship also will be fully qualified at level 3. I started my apprenticeship just after the summer holidays of year 11. The apprenticeship works by you going to work for 4 days of the week and 1 day of the week is college; in college it is split into two halves – the first half is theory on which you will be learning health and safety, types of roofing, principles of building and more, in the other half you will be in the workshop practising your practical skills, you are given tasks and you will be marked on precision and accuracy of your work.
“I picked this apprenticeship because it is a chance to learn new skills every day in a safe environment and every day has a different task. Also, you earn whilst you learn – which is great as well. I get to go to a variety of different places and jobs every day and learn new skills. After I finish my apprenticeship and am fully qualified, I plan to stay on for the company which I work for as they have supported me throughout and I think they are a great company to work for.”
Harry Payne, 31, from Bishopsworth – former Onsite apprentice, now Gas Supervisor
Harry successfully completed his apprenticeship with Bristol City Council in 2009 and has continued to work for them as a Gas Service/Breakdown Engineer there for the past decade. Harry’s hard work recently paid off with a promotion to Gas Supervisor and he is now responsible for the supervision of 37 engineers. Harry’s role includes the day to day supervision of Gas Engineers, dealing with all aspects of Health and Safety, carrying out regular site visits and ensuring operatives are updated with latest industry legislation.
Harry says: “I haven’t been to an apprenticeship fair before, as they weren’t around when I joined the council, but it sounds like a great idea to give people a better idea of what we do and promote on the job training. I heard about the Council apprenticeship as my dad was an employee of Bristol City Council when I was at school. I wasn’t the most interested in education so an apprenticeship gave me a way of earning the money I wanted, whilst putting me on a route to a trade that would provide a long-term career and actually sparked my interest to learn.
“One of the best things about getting where I am via the apprenticeship route has been the opportunity to work across multiple areas of the housing and construction sector, from repairing pipes and boilers in the Museum and City Hall, to fitting bathrooms and kitchens within local housing estates. I completed my apprenticeship by progressing to become a Gas Engineer, servicing and repairing Gas appliances.
“My most recent role has been to take on the day to day supervision of 18 Gas Engineers, covering the north of Bristol. I deal with all aspects of Health & Safety, carry out regular site visits and ensure adherence to latest industry legislation. I would like to continue in this role learning more about the introduction of new green and sustainable energy sources, whilst building my skills and experience in leading a team, with the hope that long term I could work up to a managerial position.”
Aimee Holcombe, 18, from Bishopsworth – Business Administration Apprentice
Aimee Holcombe didn’t enjoy full-time education but starting her apprenticeship with A & R Services (electrical, building and mechanical contractor based in Ashton) and City of Bristol College, has given her the chance to learn while she earns and says it has been ‘a great experience’ so far. She completed a Level 2 Business Administration apprenticeship in a year – it usually takes two years – and is now working towards her next qualification with a view to becoming a manager in the long run.
Aimee says: “I have enjoyed learning my subject while putting it into practice and going to college once a week to socialise with people my own age. By doing an apprenticeship, you are putting the skills which you are learning in college into practice on a regular basis. You are also learning how to work within a professional environment and how to get along with all different types of people. I have found my confidence has grown a lot since beginning my apprenticeship as I am dealing with customers regularly and feel confident in what I am speaking with them about.
“Doing an apprenticeship has massively helped in my career as I have created a good professional profile and have a great network of people from within and outside of the business. I have matured a lot since beginning my apprenticeship as I have encountered some tough situations and have been out under a bit of pressure every now and then which has helped me to learn how to deal with my emotions better. I would 100% recommend doing an apprenticeship to anyone, especially through City of Bristol College.”
Cody James, 22, from Hartcliffe – Accountancy Apprentice
Aspiring accountant Cody is currently completing an AAT Level 4 apprenticeship with the Healthcare Financial Management Association and City of Bristol College. She had previously completed a Level 2 and Level 3 AAT working as a Finance Officer before progressing onto her current course. And she has twice been nominated for an award – including Apprentice of the Year in the South West Business Awards.
Cody says: “The benefits of completing an apprenticeship are that, as well as working and studying, you also gain a qualification at the end of it all which is a great achievement. It can help me get other jobs in the future but the biggest benefit of studying this course is the support you receive from your tutors.
“The accountancy tutors at the College are always happy to help and respond to your queries quickly and efficiently. I chose to study Accountancy as I just love working with numbers, spreadsheets and solving problems.”
“The support from my workplace is fantastic. They have supported me since I started my apprenticeship and have always made sure I am okay. The college has also given good support. My college assessor would come every 12 weeks for a visit and again, my tutors are great at giving any additional support I needed.
Sharon Hewitt, from Withywood – Business Administration Apprentice
Apprenticeships are not just for teenagers but for older learners as well who want to reignite their future career prospect. Sharon Hewitt joined City of Bristol College in 2019 on the Business Administration Level 3 apprenticeship scheme in the hope of helping her in her job progression. The perfect fit for her without travelling to college ‘for hours on an evening or weekend’.
She says: “Apprenticeships are a great way to train as you are gaining experience through your job as well as the help from the college. I had a mentor through the course who was absolutely brilliant. She guided me through my course making me feel anything was achievable – she was a great support to me.
“I would definitely recommend the apprenticeship programme and college to anyone who will listen! I haven’t studied for a little while so initially found this quite difficult and more time consuming than I had initially thought by my mentor, Vicki, was absolutely brilliant. I can’t thank her enough for the time and support which she gave me, I definitely would not have been able to do this without her.”
Sharon is working as an Administrative Assistant at a Bristol South primary school and hopes she can take on more responsibility in her current role and looks to progress to an office manager role.
She said: “I’m not sure about my long-term goal at the moment but I am thinking I may do an accounting course and hopefully my Level 4 so I can move on to more of a business manager or office manager role before I’m too old and have to retire!”
More information on the South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020, here.
As many of you will know, I’m backing Keir Starmer for leader of the Labour Party. I’ve touched upon some of my reasons previously but I wanted to expand on this as we near the ballot.
I’m not alone in supporting Keir. He received 88 MP nominations, around three times as many as the other candidates, as well as the support of several key unions and Labour Party affiliates. There is a very good reason for that.
We need to unite the party and regain the trust of voters in order to win an election and form a progressive Labour government. This feels like a pivotal moment for the party that I’ve been a member of for 35 years. It’s a huge responsibility and we must get it right.
As I considered who to support, I thought back to when I first joined the Labour Party and the journey that’s followed.
As a young woman from an Irish working-class family, I was determined to have a better life than my parents. The Labour Party of the early Eighties offered nothing to support my family or my ambition to go to university. It wasn’t until Neil Kinnock took the reins and started to transform the party into a much more outward-facing organisation that I really saw the potential for a better future.
That was something I could get behind and I campaigned for Labour in both the 1987 and 1992 elections. The first chance I had to determine the party’s leader was in 1994. Reeling from the shock of the 1992 election defeat and as a feminist, I was taken aback by how a young male lawyer had become the party and media favourite – sidelining Margaret Beckett. I voted for Margaret, and am now fortunate enough to call her a colleague. She is a brilliant politician, whom I continue to admire and respect.
But it was Tony Blair who inspired the nation and gave hope to millions. He went onto become the greatest leader in my lifetime (to-date!) and won us unprecedented success to be able to make the changes that still serve my constituents. From building decent, modern public buildings for education, healthcare and community services such as children’s centres to establishing a minimum wage, reducing NHS waiting times and enabling more social mobility.
May 2nd 1997 remains one of the most exciting days of my life – after watching Tory Ministers on TV from my teenage years right through to my early 30s, it was amazing to see and hear the difference that a Labour government could and did make. I am determined to see that again – it’s why I became an MP, but it’s clear that we have a way to go. There are obvious parallels with today, but it’s also different.
Once again, we have a male lawyer emerge from the ranks – being pushed forward looking like the party and the media favourite. This time, all the other leadership candidates are women – most of whom, like Margaret Beckett in 1994, would make good leaders. This time round, I personally know the people in the running – having worked with them over the last four and a half years. And, a quarter of a century on, I’m presented with a new dilemma.
A leader can make or break a party. If we get this right, we have a decent chance of winning the next election – if we don’t, then we will condemn ourselves to another decade of Tory rule.
Keir does what experienced, good leaders do. He brings people along with him, listening, reflecting and considering the bigger picture. He looks after his team and takes accountability for decisions and actions. Before becoming an MP, he was Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and, as such, has faced some of the hardest decisions imaginable – relating to murder, serious organised crime and terrorism. He fully appreciates the consequences of such decisions.
In his role as Shadow Brexit Secretary, he’s navigated the difficult and adversarial politics of Brexit to repeatedly hold the government to account. I was part of Keir’s Brexit team and have continued to work closely with him as Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland. I cannot imagine anyone else getting us through the last few years in the way that Keir did. It is testament to his leadership ability and style that everyone in his team is supporting him.
I remember the evening we agreed to trigger Article 50; a tough decision for MPs who did not want to leave the EU but faced with a Tory majority government and in respect of the referendum result, felt compelled to vote to start the process. A number of colleagues rebelled. As I returned home that night the phone went – it was Keir checking in to say acknowledge what a tough day it had been for the team, checking in to see if I was OK. Empathy is such an important quality in a leader, especially during these fractious times and Keir has that key ingredient – a genuinely decent person who cares.
People who have met him during one of his many visits to Bristol have commented on this too. This genuine caring nature extends beyond his team, to people Keir doesn’t know. Witnessing again and again how well he leads, and crucially, unites teams and connects with people has made my decision much easier.
I am still hearing people say we need to be bolder and more radical when selecting our next leader. But, after four General Election defeats – the last one in December a catastrophic defeat – the most radical thing we can do is win. And I firmly believe that Keir is the person to lead us to victory. In Keir’s words, another future is possible.
This is the fourth year that Karin Smyth has run the free event with City of Bristol College, which follows National Apprenticeship Week on 3-9 February 2020.
“I’m delighted to be bringing you another South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair in partnership with City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP),” said Karin Smyth, “It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet the training providers, employers and all those people who are involved in supporting apprenticeships.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “This is a great opportunity for people seeking a route into work, and are keen to develop their skills and knowledge on the job. I am delighted that there are so many apprenticeship opportunities on offer across Bristol and that employers are committing to developing our city’s talent.”
Speaking at last year’s South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust Apprenticeship Co-ordinator Joanna Dunlop said: “The uptake has been brilliant – a really good breakdown of college students and pupils and a lot more adults, interested in all areas. We bought current jobs and even interviewed a couple of people during the day. This is the only event with this catchment and long may it last because it’s been brilliant.”
Andy Forbes, Principal of City of Bristol College, said: “Apprenticeships at City of Bristol College have so much to offer. The chance to earn money while you learn is a really good option, and in many areas you can now do apprenticeships right up to university level.”
Burges Salmon apprentice Gareth Parfitt was at the 2019 fair talking to people about his experience of the scheme. He said: “I found the university route to be really expensive and I’d had enough of reading from a textbook day-in, day-out; I wanted something that was a lot more practical so decided that an apprenticeship was way better for me.
“The practical side coupled with study works really well – I go to university on a Monday and on a Tuesday, whatever I’ve learnt, I go to work and put straight into practice. That works really well. If I pass all my exams, I should come out as a qualified solicitor without the debt of university.”
Karin Smyth added: “Apprenticeships offer a fantastic route to work and qualifications, including university degrees. We’ve had great feedback from previous fairs with people securing jobs and apprenticeships. The event is not just for school pupils but for their parents and grandparents as well as older people looking to re-enter the workplace or re-train.”
It’s free to attend and no need to pre-book, simply turn up on the day!
“I worked closely with Keir both in my previous role as his Parliamentary Private Secretary and in my current role as Shadow Northern Ireland Minister. He’s campaigned with me here in Bristol South, most recently during last month’s General Election campaign.
“As part of his team, I’ve seen first-hand what a good leader he is and, when welcoming him to Bristol South, how well regarded he is on the doorstep. I have every confidence in him to lead the Labour Party and hold the government to account and I will work with him to achieve this.
“I think that both Angela Rayner and Dawn Butler would make excellent Deputy Leaders. Angela has already secured enough nominations, so I nominated Dawn; I look forward to hearing more from both of them – along with Keir – during the selection process.”
Karin Smyth (Labour) retained her Bristol South seat in Thursday’s General Election with 27,895 votes, it was confirmed last in the early hours this morning – with a majority of 9,859.
Karin, who has been MP for Bristol South since 2015, said: “I’d like to thank you for re-electing me as your Member of Parliament and putting your trust in me again. I’d also like to thank everyone who played a part in my election campaign – to all those who delivered leaflets, spoke to people on the doorstep and supported me online.
“It’s been great to get out across Bristol South and speak to so many people in person too. It has reconfirmed my focus on healthcare, education and transport and I will continue to work hard as your MP in parliament and speak up for everyone in Bristol South, regardless of how you voted, to secure improvements in all of these areas.
“It is clear that the Labour Party has much work to do to secure the trust of people in other parts of Britain and I will work with my fellow MPs to achieve this.”
(Newspaper column as seen in the October 2019 edition of The Pigeon)
I’ve spoken before about my concern over the recommissioning of adult community health services in the region. Last month, Bristol North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) announced it had awarded a £1bn 10-year contract to deliver adult community health services to a new provider – Sirona. Changing provider is a high risk move and I’m concerned about the impact of this on health services in Bristol South.
One of my main concerns is what it will mean for South Bristol Community Hospital (SBCH). The CCG has acknowledged that the healthcare need is greater in Bristol South. We fought hard to get this important facility built in Bristol South in 2012. It has so much potential to deliver a whole range of services but seems to be under-used currently. I am determined to change this.
I’ve spoken with people who have used the hospital and have heard lots of positive comments about the space, the staff and the treatment they receive and how easy it is to access the services.
The Hengrove hospital currently provides care to about 32,000 patients annually in Bristol South. The SBCH, has an urgent care centre which is open daily from 8am to 8pm. No referral or pre-booked appointment is necessary: you can just arrive and be seen. For minor injuries and illnesses, there’s no need to go to the City Centre. The SBCH is easy to reach with good public transport links.
The hospital offers a range of screening, physiotherapy, sexual health services and dental healthcare. It is also home to groups which support carers and older people. The building is just seven years old and still has that new feeling. There’s been investment into the grounds, with a garden and children’s play area created by hospital charity Above & Beyond.
There is still work to be done. A 2016 HealthWatch report suggested adding a patient shop, making more use of volunteers and strengthening ties with the local authority with a view to being able to discharge people earlier.
And, should there be funding for enough staff, SBCH hospital has the potential to be able to offer a whole host of new services. The University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, released its 2025 vision earlier this year. It proposes to deliver: ‘a future model of care for South Bristol Community Hospital as a vibrant local community health and care facility for the people living in the South Bristol locality’. That is something I really want to see.
I will keep speaking up for first-rate NHS provision in Bristol South, and look forward to seeing SBCH better used.
Before I became a politician, I worked in NHS management. As MP for Bristol South I’m acutely aware of the health inequality that exists here and the great need for first-rate healthcare close to home for my constituents. For these, and many other reasons, health is one of the main areas I focus on as your MP.
I spoke to local and national NHS leaders and government ministers to outline my concerns – that unidentified bidders competing for a £1bn 10-year contract behind closed doors was not in the best interests of local people. Despite my protestations, the recommissioning took place.
Last month (Sept), the local CCG revealed that from April 2020 a new provider – Sirona – would be taking over the delivery of adult community health services from the existing provider and failed bidder, Bristol Community Health – which has given notice on its other contacts and now faces an uncertain future.
We still do not know which services were included in the winning bid and, perhaps more importantly, which were not. As such, we have no idea how this will impact or, as should be the case, improve the current situation. It’s an uncertain time for staff and patients alike.
Adult community health services include community nurses, respiratory, cardiac and diabetes care – as well as some of the services offered at South Bristol Community Hospital (SBCH). It’s a vital part of the journey from acute care to social care and/or recovery. Delivering quality community health services relies on a huge amount of local knowledge and relationships built up over years between staff and patients.
Changing provider is a high-risk strategy by the CCG. We’re already seeing issues locally with the changeover last month (Sept) of access to mental health service delivery – from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership to the Essex-based Vita Health. In this case, the option to self-refer online has been disabled during the handover. Sirona has a huge amount of work to do over the next six months before they’re in a position to be able to deliver services including staffing, IT, engaging with patients and partnering with charities.
The CCG – which has recognised the greater health needs in Bristol South – says it wants to see consistent, joined-up healthcare delivered closer to home. I look forward to learning more about how services across Bristol South – including at South Bristol Community Hospital – will improve as a result of this very costly and bureaucratic re-commissioning process. And I will continue to work with all concerned to make sure that happens.