NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 6th July 2018
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Nottingham’s MPs came together to debate the problem of persistent rough sleeping in our city during an adjournment debate secured by my colleague Lilian Greenwood on Monday evening. You may well have noticed yourself how in recent years there has been a greater visibility of individuals sleeping rough in Nottingham; even more visible in the recent warmer weather.
Now a new joint study between Opportunity Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University has counted 72 persistent rough sleepers in the past year. Their survey has provided a strong insight into the circumstances these people find themselves in. 14% are women, 18% have a disability, and a third have spent at least two weeks in prison recently with 68% having committed an offence or at risk of offending. But perhaps the starkest statistics are that 51% have mental health issues and 93% are experiencing substance use problems.
This isn’t just a problem in our city – it’s a state of affairs hitting every city across the UK. And it needn’t be this way. When I was a government Minister in the Labour administration we invested special efforts to provide for supported housing and housing benefit rules that provided hostel availability. Today, the number of hostel places – and especially mental health overnight bed spaces – has plummeted. Without more intensive and cleverer spending on mental health interventions, this problem is likely to worsen.
Nationwide, the number of available mental health overnight beds has fallen by a quarter since 2010, coinciding with a steep rise in rough sleeping. In Nottinghamshire, we’ve lost 176 mental health overnight beds since 2010, down from 1023 to 847 now. That’s a drop of 17% locally. This appears to me to explain in part some of the root cause of the problem.
Drug addiction is clearly high but it can only be tackled seriously with support and long term care, not disconnected to supported hostel and housing. I hope that we at least made it clear to the Minister that – if they want to reverse this terrible trend – action on mental health support and bed spaces ought to be taken immediately.
- Many people across Nottingham have offered their condolences to the family and friends of a 16-year-old boy who drowned earlier this week when swimming in Colwick Park Lake. It is reported that the teenager went into the water off River Road in Colwick on Wednesday afternoon and swam towards a buoy, dived under water, but did not subsequently resurface. He was found after an hour-long search and taken to QMC but was pronounced dead just after 4pm. We do not, as yet, have any further information about the circumstances in this case. While the site does have signs warning about swimming in open water, I hope that there can be a review to look again at whether these are clear enough – both warning about swimming in open water and walking on ice in the winter months.
- Robin Hood Energy, the council-owned energy company has made a surplus of £202,000 in its third year of operating according to accounts submitted to Companies House earlier this week. The surplus will be used to help offer a Warm Home Discount for older people and people on low incomes. The company, which was created by borrowing £20 million of capital funding has now been independently valued at £30 million, a significant increase in value from the City Council’s original investment.
- This Saturday marks the start of the ‘Hoodwinked’ art trail around the city. The trail, which will last for 12 weeks, consists of a flock of brightly coloured giant robin sculptures sponsored by local businesses and designed by local artists. When the trail is finished the robin sculptures will be auctioned off to raise money from Nottinghamshire Hospice, Hoodwinked’s charity partner.
- Congratulations to Nottingham East’s Colwick Hall which has been shortlisted as a finalist at the East Midland Chambers Business Awards in September in the category of ‘Marketing Campaign Of The Year’. The awards recognise excellence in business over a range of sectors and have awards in several fields from marketing to manufacturing. Executive Director, Selva Muthalagappan said ‘Becoming a finalist at the Nottinghamshire Business Awards 2018 is a tremendous recognition of the efforts of our sales office and indeed the entire team of chefs to front of house and key members of our operations who have been integral to this achievement.‘
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- At the beginning of this week the news from Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, revealing that he has had to make “extensive” contingency plans in case of a no-deal Brexit, was a reminder of how the UK’s departure from the EU could hit so many aspects of our lives. Britain currently imports upwards of 37 million medicine packs from the EU every month, and the potentially appalling consequences of disruption to these supply chains should be obvious. A parallel concern for the Health Service is of course the likelihood that existing staff shortages will be exacerbated by a dangerous drop-off in EU recruitment post-Brexit. I will therefore be working with MPs across all parties in the week ahead to see if there is a way for MPs to express a clear decision that Brexit must not jeopardise the medicines supply chain and regulatory arrangements on which our NHS depends.
- On Monday Theresa May made a statement to MPs following the European Council summit over last weekend. Inevitably, much of the focus was on Brexit, and my question was about the Prime Minister’s unreal thinking on customs, which has since gone on to dominate the week. We’ve seen a familiar pattern play out – Theresa May proclaims yet another unworkable customs arrangement, only for it to be ruled out as not viable by EU negotiators or dismissed by her own Cabinet colleagues. We’re now two years down the road, and the Government are still no closer to a solution which avoids border posts in Ireland — except, of course, the obvious ones on offer: the Customs Union and Single Market. It’s surely only a matter of time before the Prime Minister wakes up to this reality – but as you can see here, her answer to my question on Monday suggests we’re not there yet. We shall see what emerges from the Chequers Cabinet away day today…….
- Turkish trade experts gave evidence to the parliamentary International Trade Committee this and warned that, although the Turkey-EU Customs Union helps gets goods across the border, it doesn’t help the trucks in which those goods are contained. This can lead to massive border delays of up to 24 hours because of shortage of truck permits, costs, x-rays, disinfection, taxes and other issues. As a member of the Trade Committee I was shocked by this devastating evidence, highlighting the delays and obstacles facing truck drivers entering the EU which will come as blow to Britain’s 318,000 HGV drivers facing a hard Brexit of long checks, inspections and new paperwork even if a customs deal is done.
Outside the EU and EEA, drivers face problems with visa checks and a lack of individual permit availability when driving through each separate European country, sometimes of over 24 hours. The two Turkish trade experts at the Committee described this issue as ‘red alert’ for the UK. With two million lorries passing through the Dover straits each year, this issue is of critical importance.
- Details continue to emerge in the shocking story that another man and woman have been exposed to the Russian Novichok nerve agent in Amesbury, ten miles from Salisbury; the couple, named as Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, are currently in a critical condition in hospital. Although the precise circumstances of their contamination remain unclear, the consequences of the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in March have now hit more victims, underlying how the use of chemical weapons on British soil is such an atrocious development.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the formation of the NHS – so it was a great pleasure to spend today visiting three different aspects of our local NHS at City Hospital.
Hayward House offers high quality, specialist palliative care for life-limiting illnesses and is much cherished for its professional, positive and considerate care, offering a sanctuary where needs of patients and their families are compassionately addressed. It was a real insight to be shown around by their matron and see the team of volunteers who help make this facility for in-patients and day care such a success.
Next I had a chance to meet with the team of dietitians and nutritionists at City Hospital who work to ensure patients get tailored food and nutrients in often challenging circumstances. It is easy to overlook how important it is to avoid malnutrition of patients already undergoing difficult procedures, so their work is incredibly important – see pictured below where I was shown (and was offered the chance to sample!) the range of specialist medical liquid nutrition for those patients facing difficulty eating.
Last, I was allowed to see some of the amazing advances in cancer treatment available in Nottingham at the radiotherapy department, where Head of Radiotherapy & Physics Dr Keith Langmack explained how their new ‘radio surgery’ linac equipment (pictured below) can pinpoint cancer legions in the brain with phenomenal accuracy and increasing success.
There are so many professionals who come together to make our NHS such an amazing service. I’d be fascinated to hear any stories you have about the NHS in Nottingham and where we should all now be focusing attention for the next seventy years. Is mental health provision a key concern for you? Are we neglecting the resources needed for recuperative therapies? Or should more emphasis be placed on preventing ill-health? There are some fabulous world-beating aspects of our NHS, but we mustn’t be complacent and we need some tough decisions on future funding – which I’m determined will not be ducked.
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East