I was pleased to hear about Helen Grant’s praise for the local project Herts at War which is being run within the constituency. As Minister for the First World War Centenary, Helen was quoted as exclaiming “how quite a modest grant, coupled with the passion and determination of volunteers can create something that will be valuable for generations to come.” This initiative which I’ve spoken about before is an excellent idea and I am pleased to note that has also just received Heritage Lottery Funding until 2015 which will support its good work. It is looking for volunteers to take the project’s work forward in the areas of archival research, exhibition design, online web-editing and social networking, more details about which can be found on the Herts at War website. I understand that there will also be two Herts at War Volunteer Days where prospective volunteers can go along and speak to current project staff. The first of these is on Saturday 22 February in Letchworth Garden City and the second on Saturday 1 March at a venue to be confirmed.
I received an email this week from Owl “Online Watch Link” and was concerned to read about a scam perpetrated by fraudsters in which members of the public are contacted by email and notified that they have been scheduled to attend a court hearing. Specific dates, times and reference numbers are provided in the email, in addition to a link to an attached court notice. This link actually contains a virus which once opened, can access the user’s personal and financial information. Such emails have no connection with the Criminal Justice System and anyone in receipt of such an email should report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online here. Constituents should be aware that there are also variations of this email which exist and so I urge them to remain vigilant at all times when opening their emails.
Last Thursday I was invited to a Commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in the constituency and my researcher Catharine attended on my behalf because I was at Westminster on Parliamentary duties. There is a commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) organised by the Hertfordshire branch of the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) every year and this year the event was held at Edwinstree Middle School in Buntingford. The event was extremely well attended and there were various local dignitaries at the event including a survivor of the Kindertransport Sir Eric Reich. The theme for this year’s memorial day was “Journeys” and a collection of schools from the Hertfordshire area gathered last night to perform a variety of pieces based on this and the theme of holocaust.
Each of the acts were imaginatively put together some incorporating music and dance to convey their powerful message. Their performances which reflected on the Jewish holocaust and also other genocides including those in Darfur, the Congo, Cambodia and Rwanda too, were immaculately put together and professionally delivered. The audience was repeatedly reminded of the dreadful loss of life caused during these atrocities and importance of never allowing such events to occur again.
During the course of the evening Sir Eric Reich also gave a fascinating account of his experiences being evacuated at the tender age of four with his two brothers on the Kindertransport (children transport) to come to England just before the start of the Second World War. He talked about his re-acclimatisation to life in England where he was sent to live with a non Jewish family in Dorking, Surrey and his teenage years when he subsequently moved to London to live at a Jewish school in London. Strikingly Sir Eric was very positive about his experiences despite losing his two parents in the Holocaust and being relocated to a foreign country at such a young age. During his adult life Sir Eric has gone on to raise enormous amounts of money for charity and his testimony was a poignant reminder of what, despite the odds, one person can achieve should they want to. Interestingly he revealed that one of the children in the monument outside London’s Liverpool Street Station which was erected as a tribute to the Kindertransport, is supposed to be him.
Towards the end of the programme there was a lighting of memorial candles by Councillor Alan Plancey and a moment’s silence to remember the deceased and all those affected by racism, discrimination and persecution across the World. This was followed later by a statement of commitment by all to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of genocide together with a condemnation of the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism.
The evening was a powerful reminder of the terrible loss of life in mass genocides and the need for community cohesion to avoid such acts in the future. Thursday was very special and the various performances by the school pupils taking part were excellent.
I know many of my constituents are concerned about the humanitarian situation for those in Syria and for those Syrian refugees who have fled to nearby countries. On Wednesday the Home Secretary Theresa May made a statement to the House about the UK efforts which have been made to help these people. She referred to the need for a peaceful political solution to the ongoing civil war and talks are ongoing in Geneva in order to try and achieve this. In the meantime the UK is the second biggest bilateral donor (after the United States) to the Syrian relief effort and has already provided £600 million of which £500 million has already been allocated to refugees and those internally displaced.
For some time people have been looking to the UK to provide greater sanctuary for Syrian refugees and Theresa May also announced plans to run a “vulnerable person relocation scheme” which will assist with the relocation of those individuals where evacuation from the region is the only option and they have been nominated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR). This programme is intended to help survivors of sexual violence and torture.
The UK is making a valiant effort to the help those in Syria. It is especially important that we help those who have suffered as a result of torture and sexual violence. We must hope that a political solution can be found to the civil war and fast, but in the meantime as a country constituents can rest assured that we are certainly providing tremendous assistance to those that need it most.
Yesterday the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt announced the introduction of “whole stay” doctors who will be in charge of the entire package of a patient’s care. It used to be the case that there was one nominated doctor in charge of each patient admitted to hospital but this practice was phased out by Labour during the last administration. It is difficult for patients and their relatives not knowing who has overall responsibility for their loved one’s care whilst in hospital.
It will be reassuring to know who is in charge and to whom patients and their relatives can address any questions and it allows for proper continuity of care. By having a “whole stay” doctor, there will be one care plan and proper handovers to the patient’s GP once they are discharged.
This new initiative has already been trialled successfully in Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital in London. In order to extend continuity of care beyond hospitals Jeremy Hunt highlighted the need for named accountable GPs. From April, starting with the over 75s, GPs will be named to ensure there is less chance of a breakdown of communication about a patient’s care plan once they return to the community. This should reduce the risk of possible readmission to hospital. I welcome these two announcements and look forward to patients receiving a better “joined-up” service from the NHS.
In the National Audit Office report “NHS waiting times for elective care in England” which was published yesterday, I note reference has been made to the huge amount of money which is estimated to have been lost (£225 million) by the NHS by patients missing first outpatient appointments in 2012-13. This is a staggering amount of money to be lost just because of people failing to turn up for appointments.
The NHS is a marvelous institution which provides healthcare for all irrespective of patient means but I do think we need to treat the system with a little respect because of the sheer costs involved when the system is abused. If the £225 million which was lost could be ploughed back into NHS services we might have even more doctors and nurses and better provision of services.
I urge my constituents to keep to their medical appointments where possible and where not, ensure they contact the relevant medical department to let them know they cannot attend an appointment so that the slot can be offered to someone else and money can be saved.
I was interested to read in a bulletin update from “Malaria No More” that malaria deaths have fallen by 45% since 2000. This is excellent news given that in 2012 malaria was responsible for causing an estimated 627,000 deaths (according to the World Health Organisation). I dread to think how many deaths malaria caused in 2000 but a reduction by 45% since then is an amazing achievement.
Back in 2011 I asked the then Secretary of State for International Development whether he and his Department would take a particular interest and show particular determination in tackling childhood mortality, particularly in developing countries (of which malaria is a major contributor) to which the Secretary of State replied that he would.
Of course tackling childhood mortality and combating HIV/aids, malaria and other diseases are two of the Millennium Development Goals. DFID also published in 2011 its Malaria Framework for Results Strategy which outlined DFID’s plans to deal with malaria up until 2015. It highlighted the government’s commitment to halve the number of malaria deaths in at least 10 high burden countries by ensuring they have the right mix of good quality prevention, diagnosis and treatment. This pledge by DFID is a significant undertaking and will do much to combat one of the biggest killers in developing countries. I am glad that the UK is taking a strong lead in addressing this important issue.