The NHS is a vital service, and one we all care about deeply. My mother worked as a nurse for 45 years, so it is particularly close to my heart. Doctors and nurses do an amazing job and want what is best for their patients, and we in return rely on being able to access dedicated healthcare where and when we need it.
Patients want an NHS with proper 7-day care, and we made a clear promise in our manifesto to deliver that for them. I have engaged local healthcare staff and managers in meetings to discuss the best way of ensuring the changes the government is making bring about these and other improvements.
Better healthcare services also mean ensuring treatment is available closer to those who need it. Fareham Community Hospital is a great facility, costing £20million but remains underused and subject to complex governance structures. Many local people still struggle to get a GP appointment and have to travel to QA for routine check-ups or minor injuries. To ease these pressures, I am working to expand the services offered at Fareham. I therefore set up Fareham Community Hospital Taskforce, bringing together Health Service Providers and Commissioners so that better collaboration can be achieved. I am pleased that the Taskforce had enabled a plan to emerge for better usage of the FCH as well as a change in the management structure and commissioning of services. Work is progressing on how to better deliver more appropriate GP services and specialist care for our local community. I have also raised these issue with the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt who visited the hospital in February 2016 and provided guidance on how the FCH can work better.
Same Day Access Service at FCH
The new same-day service, also referred to as Fareham Primary Care Service, was launched in September 2017 and will involve four GP practices in the borough – Highlands Practice in Fareham, Jubilee Surgery in Titchfield, Stubbington Medical Practice, and Whiteley Surgery – working together to provide the service.
The service will only be for patients registered at the four participating practices during the initially period, with the Fareham & Gosport Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) looking to expand if successful.
The way the service will operate is by the patient first phoning their GP practice as normal and, if they ask for a same-day appointment they will be asked if their details can be shared with the service. Patients will be called back by the service in order of clinical priority with the nurse or GP having a detailed conversation with them. The patient may be given advice on how to take care of themselves, arrangements made for medication to be available at a pharmacy or an appointment offered. The service will be run from Fareham Community Hospital, with appointments being held there if a patient is offered one.
I am proud to have led the Taskforce which has campaigned since 2015 for greater use of FCH, including utilising its facilities for Same-Day-Access-Services. The Taskforce has worked hard over the last two years to secure increased services at Fareham Community Hospital and I am very grateful to the CCG, NHS Trusts, other local and community groups that have helped to secure change.
LOCAL HEALTH NEEDS: DIABETES, EPILEPSY, DEMENTIA
Better preventative care and public health awareness are also important, and I am working to support certain health groups where a real problem has been identified locally: Fareham and Gosport has the highest rate of limb amputation due to diabetes and so I am working for increased understanding of diabetes and the measures that people can take to minimise the risk of that illness. I have also helped establish a local Epilepsy support group, and am a Dementia Friend, supporting the Alzheimer's Society locally.
Mental health is as important as physical health. Every year, mental health problems will affect one in four people, which is more people than will develop heart disease or cancer. Whether it is depression, dementia, schizophrenia, alcohol or drug related illnesses, mental health problems can have a tragic effect on peoples' lives.
I hope to play a vital role in securing good quality support for people in Fareham, as well as promoting mental health at a national level. I am pleased that we will increase funding for mental health care, boosting funding of children's mental health services by £1.25 billion over the next five years. We are also committed to providing more mental health support to women during and after pregnancy, and have pledged to end the practice of using police cells as "places of safety" for those experiencing a mental health crisis by ensuring proper provision of health and community-based places of safety.
Solent Mind is a great charity, providing advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They have a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am -6pm, Monday-Friday).
I take a keen interest in local health services and regularly meet with local GPs, junior doctors, paramedics, hospital staff and managers.