Parliament has returned before a break for the conference season. For me, that means the opportunity to continue my constituency tour throughout September, holding open surgeries in as many towns, villages and hamlets as I can – all details of locations are on my website.
I love touring my vast and varied constituency and talking to as many people as possible. It is vital to ensure that I can raise issues in Parliament that my constituents care about.
There have been troubling rumours that the hospital is to close – that is categorically not the case.
Broadband access is one issue that has been raised, and the Digital Economy Bill is now before Parliament. I want it to ensure the new ‘universal service obligation’ does not allow Openreach to wriggle out of providing decent broadband to everyone if some locations make it too hard or expensive. To receive updates on this issue email me with the subject ‘broadband updates’.
As well as meeting residents, I have been able to continue my programme of visiting charities, clubs and businesses. It was fantastic to meet teens taking part in the National Citizen Service in Alnwick and to hear about their social action projects, as well as to catch up with Berwick Rangers to hear about the new academy plans and meet potential applicants.
I also paid a visit to Forward Assist, a military charity in the North East, which does incredible working helping former servicemen and women adjust to life as civilians. As well as assisting veterans facing serious challenges with alcohol abuse or homelessness, it offers courses in IT skills, cookery and horticulture. It is always looking for volunteers and donors. If you would like to find out more about getting involved, I am happy to put people in touch with the team.
The NHS has decided to temporarily close inpatient beds at Rothbury Community Hospital as they were less than 35 per cent full. I know this decision has caused a great deal of concern and there have been troubling rumours that the hospital is to close – that is categorically not the case.
I have spoken to the local NHS team about the decision and they tell me that more people are receiving care in their own homes from the excellent community nursing teams, meaning fewer people are staying as inpatients.
I want to know from people who have been patients, or who have had loved ones require convalescence, whether they were admitted elsewhere or received care at home because that was their choice, or because Rothbury was not offered as an option. Please tell me your experiences, which will be treated confidentially, but will help me get a better understanding of why the beds at Rothbury are under-occupied.
Finally, it seems a little early to be thinking about Christmas, but I would like to highlight the excellent Singing for Syrians initiative, which I am supporting this year. The campaign aims to get people of all faiths and backgrounds singing together to express support for the people of Syria. Individuals, communities, churches and schools are encouraged to hold a carol concert or event in the weeks before Christmas.
As you will be aware, the people of Syria have suffered greatly from the conflict that has been waged in recent years. I am encouraging everyone in Northumberland to get involved to raise money that will support Syria’s most vulnerable.
Through the Hands Up Foundation (http://www.handsupfoundation.org), any donation will help two important projects: paying medical salaries in Aleppo and funding a prosthetic limb clinic in Turkey. In 2015 Singing for Syrians raised over £45,000. This year, we are hoping the campaign will be even bigger, but we need your help.
There are lots of things you can do to make sure that Singing for Syrians makes a difference. It would be brilliant if you could consider holding your own concert, and a ‘how to’ pack will be available in the autumn. Alternatively, you might prefer to have a collection at a carol concert or other event.
I will be doing my bit by singing a solo in the main concert at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, but it would be wonderful to have local churches and other groups involved too.