Community's hospital fight taken to PM

Since my last update, there has been no shortage of politics, sport or national events for the nation to get its teeth into.

Thursday, 24th May 2018, 5:07 pm
Protestors at the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group meeting about Rothbury Community Hospital at Morpeth Town Hall. Picture by Jane Coltman

For my money, the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex certainly stolen the show – a remarkable and wonderful event that not only showed how we come together as a nation to celebrate a young couple in love, but it made me so proud of the modern and diverse nation we have become.

It is with this positive spirit that I wish to approach two issues this week. They are health and education, which affect us all.

As we know well in North Northumberland, healthcare in rural communities poses challenges for service provision due to the great distances between towns and villages for all of us residents who rely on it. That is what makes community hospitals so important, particularly in our patch.

This is a key part of our healthcare provision need, and last week I asked the Prime Minister in the House of Commons to support our in-bed provision at Rothbury Community Hospital.

Ever since the beds were closed 18 months ago, we have been fighting as a community, with the wonderful and relentless Save Rothbury Hospital Campaign team and supporters, to get transparency surrounding the original decision process and get that in-bed provision reinstated.

Our sparsely populated Coquet Valley is a perfect example of low-level nursing playing a vital role in providing NHS care – from convalescence to palliative, to the community.

Whilst the Prime Minister can’t explicitly support the campaign, as the decision is currently with the Independent Reconfiguration Panel which advises the Health Secretary, she did agree on the importance of community hospitals, and I am encouraged that the voice of our communities has been taken right to the door of No 10.

Last Wednesday was also a day that encouraged me for other reasons.

I unashamedly love maths and numeracy. However, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and something that has gone under the radar for too long is that 50 per cent of the adult population have the numeracy skills of a child. Hopefully, that is all about to change.

I marked the inaugural National Numeracy Day last Wednesday by calling on the Government to invest in basic skills for maths-focused learning and teacher training for early years. Getting it right early on gives the maths foundations all our children will need for successful adult lives.

Research has shown that anxiety around numeracy and maths could be holding back millions of people from getting on at work or getting a better deal on their personal finances.

Last year, I co-chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group report on Maths And Numeracy In The Early Years. We found that early years are critical in ensuring people have numeracy skills and the confidence to use them in later life, and many fall behind if they don’t learn the right skills at an early age.

It is absolutely vital that we get numeracy skills right for early years education if we are to provide children with the skills and confidence to use maths through their lives. Without these basic skills, this can affect management of household budgets, lifestyle decisions and career prospects.

I am really hopeful that we can remove the taboo surrounding numeracy and eliminate any stigma associated with struggling with numbers. It isn’t uncommon.

I would encourage everyone to take the National Numeracy Test online and brush up on their skills. It is never too late to learn and we can support one another to guarantee that we get maths and numeracy right.

Let’s work on this together and change how we deal with the numbers once and for all.