Whitehaven News column – 29th January 2015

Mind the Gap 

Take a walk in the early hours of the morning – the time when first shift workers are setting out for the day and when night shift workers are returning home. Our community is fortunate to have some very well paid shift jobs, but not every body in our community and not every community in the country is as fortunate.

Waiting at a London bus stop at five in the morning in order to catch an early train home is a fairly common experience for me. I routinely see the night shift office cleaners, security guards, production line workers and others coming home: tired, bedraggled, clearly not affluent. These are difficult lives to lead. In London, more than anywhere else, the gap between the rich and poor is ever more stark, but we see it in Copeland too.

Foodbank use in Copeland – not easy to access – is soaring. The gap between the rich and poor on our own doorstep is growing for all to see. Our community will not fulfill its ambitions whilst this situation persists. Archbishop of York and Chancellor of the University of Cumbria, Dr John Sentamu, has written a new book ‘On Rock Or Sand?’, in which he states that the last four and-a-half years has seen the rise of inequality which traps hard-working families on “poverty wages”.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph to publicise the book, Sentamu criticised those politicians who have given rise to a society under the “rule of the jungle”. It’s a sobering intervention and one that should be heeded.

Time to Grow our Own 

Meanwhile, we need to take real concerted action to turn around the crisis surrounding the recruitment of medical professionals in Cumbria.

Yesterday, I launched Labour’s 10 Year Plan for Health & Care alongside Rt Hon Andy Burnham and the Labour Shadow front bench team. Contained within the plan, for the first time ever, is a dedicated apprenticeship and technical degree program for young people so that we can replenish our medical skills base locally and nationally.

The government has cut medical training places and this has left the NHS with a spiralling bill for agency staff that is taking resources away from patient care. Without adequate staffing levels, we will never provide patients with the care and services they need and deserve. Not only this, but if we keep stretching our medical professionals like we are doing then we will burn them out, compromise quality and remain unable to recruit more staff.

This is true of our hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes. Labour’s ten year plan will ensure that we train 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more doctors, 3,000 more midwives and 5,000 home care workers. Every single person in Cumbria who has used the NHS knows that we need these professionals and Labour is the only party to pledge this.

The plan also means that we can now shape the NHS in Cumbria in the way that we want it so that local government, hospitals and GP practices can work together in innovative ways like never before. Faced with this and the ongoing recruitment crisis, the Cumbrian health economy needs to ‘Grow our Own’ talent. This means schools, colleges and universities working together to identify young talent interested in medical careers.

 I will be bringing together the CCG, hospital trusts, schools, colleges and universities together to identify how we can ‘Grow our Own’. There are huge opportunities here – Westlakes Science Park is adjacent to the new West Cumberland Hospital, the Summergrove training centre and the Universities of Manchester and Central Lancashire.

The potential is enormous at every level.

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