Whitehaven News column – 18th December 2014

A long road worth travelling
Getting things done in politics, like life, is never automatic. Improving the lives of the people of the community you represent can take longer than you hoped. It’s frustrating, it’s exasperating and matters are often outside of your control. All of which means that perseverance is key.
It was never, ever automatic that we would be chosen as a site for new nuclear reactors. This decision took a huge amount of work, with work still to be done. Getting the project to this stage hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been quick – but meeting with the leaders of the Japanese and American parent companies of NuGen in Westminster recently again brought home to me the huge significance of the project internationally and the transformative effect it will have upon us locally. It began with working with and writing new energy policy with Tony Blair’s policy unit in 10 Downing Street in 2005. It’s taken nine years to reach this point: a long road with no short-cuts; but note the power of effective partnerships.
We need this approach right now with regard to securing and developing our local health services. We know the bare facts: long-term problems were set to be addressed by the Closer to Home proposals, these were torn up after the election, the new build project was cancelled, then partially re-instated, now we’re in the middle of a service reconfiguration problem and the NHS nationally is being forced to its knees by a government intent on opening it up to privatisation.
Locally (and in many other areas around England) this has been met with concern, anxiety and latterly, justifiable fury.
Government ministers, including the Prime Minister wont engage with the problems they’ve created or the effects of them in our community and so the focus is on us –again- to grab the situation by the scruff of the neck and do everything that we can to solve the problems we are presented with. None of us, me, local councilors of all parties, local medics, the Clinical Commissioning Group and even the North Cumbria Trust, want to be in the situation we now find ourselves in – yet here we are. The reality is that to get what we want in West Cumbria, we have to do things differently. We have to work harder and smarter than other areas. We have to be more resourceful, truly imaginative and abandon any resentments: this is simply how it is.
So with government disinterest and a troubled hospital trust, I’ve taken our concerns to England’s top doctor – Professor Sir Bruce Keogh and the discussions have been positive.
We need partnerships on the ground now to deliver our ambitions and collectively provide the health services we want and need to see. Exisiting consultant led services at the West Cumberland are non-negotiable. Moving on we need to partner our new hospital with a university for staff training purposes and medical research. As a unique area we require unique solutions – providing these solutions can and should support a University Chair so that we can develop and suatain a model of healthcare that can be exported and for which we can be recognised. We need to use and integrate technology more, becoming the UK’s pioneering community for telehealth and for medical wearable devices and we need to comprehensively integrate the working of our GP practices with our hospitals. We will have some battles ahead with our services – I have no doubts about that – but ultimately we have two choices.
We can continue with the acrimony and recrimination or – once we have certainty on those services that are non negotiable – turn our local area into one of the most exciting, innovate areas of health care in the country.  The most important consequence of the former is that it will continue to make recruitment difficult, whereby the later will make us a magnet for health professionals interested in what we are trying to achieve.
It’s a long road, I’ll be providing more detail soon, and together, I believe that we can do it.
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