Everyone relies on the NHS and it is rightly the Government’s biggest priority after delivering Brexit. Record investment is now pouring in - but more must be done to make sure the money reaches the front-line here in Wiltshire.
I hear all the time about the strain the local NHS is under, and the impact this has on patients. Some people wait weeks for a GP appointment - and almost a year for an appointment with the memory service for dementia sufferers. In an increasingly elderly community like ours, this is unacceptable.
Acute healthcare - specialist care and A&E - is chronically overstretched. People in the Devizes constituency have to travel to Swindon or Salisbury for hospital appointments. Swindon hospital is clearly too small for the demand it experiences.
I recently welcomed the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to Devizes to discuss the plans for the Urgent Care Centre. He confirmed the funding is in place and building will begin later this year, with the new centre expected to open in 2021.This will significantly reduce demand on our local hospitals and GPs.
More needs doing, however. Like everywhere, we suffer a shortage of doctors and other medical staff. It seems extraordinary that a place like Marlborough should struggle to attract doctors, but we have vacant posts here and across the constituency. It is good that the Government is investing in staff - more training places and improved pay packages - and I will work hard to ensure the new investment feeds through into more local doctors, and shorter waiting times.
I also hear about the difficulties people have in travelling to medical appointments, both locally to the GP and further afield to hospital. The fantastic Volunteer Link service - local people giving time as drivers to take people to and from their appointments - is indispensable and a great example of the community self-help I believe in. I will do what I can to support this service and expand it, and where necessary fight for public funding to help with the costs of travel.