OPINION: Encouraging steps forward on healthcare and animal welfare ahead of return to Parliament
PRIOR to the start of the coming parliamentary term, I am pleased with a number of encouraging government announcements made over summer recess.
Minister of state for health Philip Dunne announced the biggest ever expansion to the NHS medical workforce in England, with plans to train an extra 1,500 doctors a year by 2020 and an additional 10,000 training places for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals. In addition, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced 500 extra medical school places for next year – boosting student doctor numbers, as well as plans to deliver 21,000 new posts in mental health support by 2021.
The recent news surrounding mandatory CCTV in all UK slaughterhouses is also a positive move and will help to reassure consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced across the UK. Here in the UK we have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and ensuring the welfare of animals is protected during their time in slaughterhouses is vital. Britain is renowned internationally for its meat industry and in the next few weeks I will be meeting with members of the NFU and local farmers on farms to discuss the future of British farming, which is a vital sector to Britain's economy, landscape, health and security, contributing £8.2bn every year.
Working to support young people will always be a priority so it was fantastic to join a group of Copeland teenagers taking part in National Citizen Service this month. It was refreshing to hear their thoughts on the programme as well their future plans and I applaud Inspira for making it possible in Copeland.
The visit followed the prime minister’s plans to make a mental health awareness course part of the National Citizen Service programme in a bid to reduce the levels of depression and anxiety among young people. The pressures of school and exams, struggles with home life or friendships, and getting into university or finding a job, can all affect mental wellbeing and often can prove overwhelming for young people. Mental health issues can have a devastating effect and that’s why making sure young people are fully supported both inside and outside of the classroom is vital and a pleasing decision made by the government.
This month, I also held an urgent meeting with United Utilities and the Environment Agency seeking an alternative solution following changes to Copeland’s water supply to incorporate Ennerdale water with that from boreholes. Under the new water supply arrangements agreed at the meeting, which was also attended by The Drinking Water Inspectorate and Copeland mayor, Mike Starkie, residents will receive a consistent blend of water classed as soft throughout the year, by using a smaller proportion of borehole water. It was agreed that the softer blend will be maintained until 2022 when a new pipeline bringing water from Thirlmere reservoir is complete. The proportion of borehole water would only ever be increased in times of drought when the level of Ennerdale Water reaches a certain low point – rainfall models indicate this might be one in four years.
With Parliament set to resume in just a few days, it was a pleasure to attend Black Combe Country Fair last Monday – a highlight in the Copeland calendar and another fantastic event organised by the local community. Attracting visitors from across the county, the traditional fair not only offers a wonderful insight into Cumbrian life, but also brings out the whole community – a great way to mark the end of the summer months.