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Working together – ‘very impressive’ says Shadow Health Minister

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The Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley CBE MP visited the Island yesterday to hear about the unique way in which the Island’s health service is structured and described the way that local health professionals worked together as ‘very impressive’.

Should the Conservatives win the forthcoming general election Mr Lansley is expected to take over responsibility for the National Health Service. Speaking yesterday after he had visited St Mary’s Hospital and the new prison hospital facilities he said :

“At St Mary’s the senior management team told me about the challenges they face delivering a wide range of services – many of which are normally only provided for a much larger population. Here on the Island you have found innovative ways to rise to that challenge which are very impressive. For instance, there are around 1,200 babies born on the Island each year. I have seen for myself the excellent neo-natal facilities that support the maternity ward – and heard how local staff are prepared to work flexibly when required. Yet in Solihull, services are being downgraded because it is ‘not viable’ to provide a full maternity cover for 2,800 babies.

“I would like to thank everyone who was involved with the visit; I learnt a great deal. I speak often with Andrew Turner about the Island’s health services, but sadly I didn’t have time to see everything I would have liked to see. I would encourage GPs and other health professionals to get in touch with Andrew and let him know their views to help with our discussions in the future.”

Mr Lansley also visited the Chemotherapy Unit, the new Beacon walk-in GP centre and the Accident and Emergency Unit:

“I was very impressed with what I saw and heard during my visit – I got the chance to talk not only to managers but to doctors, clinicians, nurses and patients. I know the Trust is working hard to provide services locally wherever possible. I wanted to see how that is working in practice and see if there are lessons we can use elsewhere – especially other rural areas. GPs are usually the first port of call for patients and are trusted intermediaries with the public. We need to put them at the heart of the process and they need to feel they are in the driving seat in commissioning services that their patients need. I was told how that is already being introduced here.

“This was my first visit to a prison health facility and it was extremely informative. It is a false economy to release prisoners at the end of their sentences without making sure that their underlying health problems are dealt with, particularly mental health issues. However, we need to make sure that just because there is a large prison on the Island it does not place an unreasonable burden on the Island’s health service.”

When questioned about the future of the Island’s health services under a Conservative government, Mr Lansley said:

“The sick would not pay for Labour’s terrible debt crisis. There are several policies already announced that would benefit the Island. Generally the NHS budget would rise in real terms each year of the next parliament. More specifically, the current funding formula does not properly recognise the extra costs of treating elderly patients. The Island is unusual that there are a high proportion of elderly residents and low income households – the allocation should recognise that. We will also allow decisions on what should be provided to be made locally – I can see that would be both popular and successful on the Island.

“I also heard how the Council have introduced free home care for the over 80s, ways in which they are helping elderly prisoners and they are also developing innovative software for groups who need advice. Working together with the NHS they are clearly providing much needed services which can lead to better services at lower costs. Many people currently find it difficult and confusing to access health information they need. A Conservative government would complement the 999 emergency services by introducing a 111 telephone number. That would connect you to local health professionals who would give you appropriate advice to your own area and let you know what action you should take. That would enable the Island to build on what is already being provided.”

Mr Turner said

“I was very pleased that Andrew Lansley found time to come and see for himself how health services are being delivered on the Island. Clearly there are challenges, but it was seen by health staff not as an opportunity to complain, but to tell him how they have dealt with them and what Government could do to help.

“As the Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andrew stressed that it is important to listen to health professionals on the front line – I would very much welcome hearing from local people and I will feed their views back to him.”

END Contact : Andrew Turner’s office 01983 530808

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Broadlands jobs safe

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Island MP Andrew Turner has received confirmation that the future of jobs and services at Broadlands House are secure following press reports that previously announced new jobs would not now be coming to the Island. Mr Turner said that yesterday’s press reports were completely at odds with assurances he had received both from the Minister last summer and the regional manager as recently as November last year. On hearing the reports that plans had changed he contacted the senior management of JobCentre Plus to seek clarification of the position.

Mr Turner said

“I have now received definite confirmation that the plans of Jobcentre Plus have not changed and that they will be keeping a benefit processing centre on the Island as well as establishing one of only two national insurance number processing centres here. I have been told that the additional jobs will arise as their plans are implemented over the coming months.”

Mr Turner went on to say

“During our meeting last November Guy Tompkins Jobcentre Plus’s regional manager was very complimentary about their workforce on the Island and told me that the positive approach of the staff was one of the reasons why they planned to expand on the Island. I am very glad that they see the sense of bringing work to the Island rather than taking it to the mainland and I will continue to press Government to follow their example.

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School Reorganization – Where will £70m come from?

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Government have denied promising the IW Council £70 million to pay for reorganizing Island schools from a three- to a two-tier system. And the Island’s MP has criticized the ‘optimistic noises’ on funding given at consultation meetings.

In a Parliamentary Answer to Island MP Andrew Turner it was revealed that there have been absolutely no promises from the Government to provide the estimated £70 million needed for the changes being proposed by council officials. In answering Mr Turner, Stephen Twigg MP, the Minister responsible for school funding, made it clear that the Isle of Wight council has received no assurances that extra money will be made available for the proposed changeover. Mr Turner has criticized the impression given to parents and teachers that obtaining the money needed from central government would not present a problem.

Andrew Turner said,

“During the meeting I attended at Sandown High School it was clearly stated that ‘we can get’ the £70 million needed to change the system. I was surprised to hear that because that simply isn’t the way that Government works. I have asked the Government what promises they have given and they have clearly told me that they have given none. I have now asked the Council what led them to give such a misleading impression to those who went to the trouble of attending the meeting. I have been told that there have been informal meetings with government officials who support these proposals – I am afraid that does not represent government spending commitments. Frankly I am shocked that optimistic noises were made which misled people.”

Exam results and education standards on the Island are far below the national average and the recent report costing £100,000 by 4S recommended changing the system but did not provide any evidence that this alone would improve standards. Mr Turner went on to say:

“There may well be arguments for changing the system – but changing the system does not guarantee improving standards; the issues should not be mixed up. Even the advocates of change admit it would cost a fortune. If that money does not come from central government it will have to come from existing council budgets and be topped up by Island council taxpayers.

“It is at very least disingenuous to suggest that finding the money to achieve change is not an important issue that needs to be discussed as part of these proposals. I am worried that the Council seems to believe that informal discussions with civil servants translates into promises of many millions of pounds – sadly that is not the case.

“We need to raise standards but that is best done by the Council accepting that some schools are better than others, publishing that information to parents, governors, teachers and the wider public, and tackling the problems on a school-by-school basis. It is not as glamorous as being the architect of a whole new system, but it is much more likely to give our children the quality schooling they deserve.”

END

Contact : Andrew Turner 01983 530808

School Building (Isle of Wight)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what (a) commitments and (b) undertakings she has made to the Isle of Wight Council regarding future capital allocations provided (i) through the Building Schools for the Future programme or (ii) otherwise, whether (A) contingent on or (B) not contingent on school reorganisation. [216280]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: A letter has been sent to all council leaders stating that, for authorities not prioritised in the first three waves of Building Schools for the Future (BSF), including the Isle of Wight, we are determined to make a start on BSF plans between 2005–06 and 2010–11. Our ambition is that in the next full Parliament, subject to future spending decisions, 60 per cent. of all authorities will have started in the BSF programme, or else be given resources to renew at least one secondary school with the greatest need as a school for the future, or as an academy. Each BSF scheme will be judged on its merits, and is not necessarily contingent on school reorganisation. Other capital allocations to the council and its schools were announced on 30 November, and are set out in the following table:

£000
2006–07 14,853
2007–08 15,446

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Can we become a Fairtrade Island?

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As World Fair Trade Fortnight draws to a close this Sunday the Island’s MP Andrew Turner has praised the work of the IW Fairtrade Forum. The Forum is working towards the accolade of Fairtrade Island by building on existing users and suppliers of Fairtrade products to spread the word about the products and the good they do for their producers in the developing world. There are now more than 250 products bearing the distinctive green and blue logo which guarantees a fair deal to producers of such items as coffee, tea, sugar and bananas.

Andrew Turner said,

“The Fairtrade product range has expanded over recent years and whilst once they were seen as an expensive alternative they now offer good value and quality. In order to become a Fairtrade Island we need more suppliers of the products so everybody really can make a difference by asking their local coffee shop or convenience store to stock a few items from the range. As the largest constituency in the country the Island gaining this accolade really would make a difference and give a boost to the national campaign. Fairtrade really makes a difference to those communities that need a helping hand – and I know that on the Island we have a really caring and compassionate community”.

Jim Curtis the co-ordinator of the IW Fairtrade Forum said

“I very much value Andrew’s support for this campaign. In order for the Island to be recognised in this way we need the active support of the Isle of Wight council as well as that of suppliers across the Island. I urge everyone to let their local councillors know that they would be proud to see us become a Fairtrade Island helping less fortunate people to take control of their own lives and build themselves a better future.

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