It was the February half term Parliamentary recess recently. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a time when MPs or their teams stop working. Quite the opposite. It is a time to have important constituency meetings in order to ensure our community priorities are progressed as swiftly as possible.
So during the recess week that meant taking forward some of our key issues around healthcare, policing and tourism.
Healthcare forms a large part of the post bag for me and my team. That includes supporting applications for specialist funding from the local health funding pot, making the case for urgent mental health assessments, pressing for more NHS dentists, and, of course, meeting health chiefs about the current problems at our local hospital trust, including maternity services.
There is still much to do to address culture and leadership at the Trust as well as ensuring that maternity and other services improve at pace. However, at my meeting with the chairman and chief executive of the Trust, I was pleased to hear some good news about plans to upgrade Buckland Hospital. Buckland will be an Urgent Treatment Centre. That means it will finally have doctors, as well as nurses, meaning that more appropriate help can be given closer to home. It will also help to train the next generation of medics based at the new Kent Medical School, opening later this year. So it will be a training hospital too. There was more good news in that the Dementia Village has received its formal sign off and will open fully soon.
Effective policing is important for every community. I met with our local police chiefs, the district commander Chief Inspector Elena Hall and East Kent’s divisional commander Chief Superintendent Nigel Brookes to discuss which crimes are rising and falling in our area, and what the policing priorities are. Crime statistics have shown a sharp drop in crime. The Kent force has particular actions on ‘county lines’ drugs activity and domestic violence. It is welcome news that we are getting new police recruits for our area, and more action for our town centres in Deal as well as Dover.
Tourism is important for our local economy. So I was pleased to experience first-hand the accessibility of National Trust’s White Cliffs Visitor Centre, and to hear about their commitment to meeting zero carbon targets in their work. We also discussed how important it is that key tourist attractions, be they the White Cliffs or Dover Castle or Deal Castle or Samphire Hoe, are connected and accessible to local people, as well as adding to the growth and prosperity of our area.
Culture, history, community – we have so much to celebrate on our special corner of the country. As I returned to the bright lights and bustle of Westminster, I know it’s got a job to match the energy and creativity of Dover & Deal.