Over the last five years we have come a long way to securing a fairer share of healthcare in Dover & Deal. The next stage is to ensure we have five star healthcare. This is not just about hospitals and care beds. It's also about better public health, mental healthcare and ambulances we can trust.
Back in 2010 Dover's Buckland Hospital had been decimated for a decade. Wards had been axed axed one by one. Deal Hospital was left teetering on the edge. Fast forward to 2015 and a new state of the art Buckland Hospital has opened. Deal Hospital has been saved from closure. We now have a one stop shop for outpatient care.
Yet we also need great public health and reliable emergency services. So news this week that South East Coast Ambulance Trust had decided to put all 111 calls to the bottom of the pile as an automatic policy was deeply concerning. It is claimed that some 25 people may have died unnecessarily as a result of this policy.
The health regulator Monitor has condemned the Trust. It is clear to me it is shocking and unacceptable. When we call for an ambulance, we expect help to arrive straightaway when we need it. This is not good enough.
Public health is also a worry. Statistics released this week show that schoolchildren in Town and Pier ward have been found to be the most obese in the country. 56% are overweight or obese. There are concerns elsewhere in the district too. I have written to all primary schools in Dover to ask them why they think Dover children are more likely to be overweight and what might be done about it. I have also asked health chiefs for their observations as these figures are a real concern.
Good health for life begins in childhood. It's critical we educate children and parents on how to eat healthily. Healthy eating choices make for a balanced diet, better nutrition and less obesity. We also need to ensure a lifelong culture of exercise starts in childhood. That's why school sport matters. Studies show that the more exercise a child gets, the happier and more confident they are. This is how we boost our young people's chances in life and give them the best possible start.
It's also important we teach cooking skills too for the same reason. Less junk food and more good old fashioned cooking makes for a healthier and longer life.
Physical health is important but mental health matters too. Recently I invited members of Talk it Out, a support group for those that suffer from mental health or care for those with mental health illness, to Parliament. I hosted a discussion with representatives from the mental health charity Mind, and with the Mental Health Minister. Talk it Out were able to find out about more support locally and discuss what can be done to improve care locally.
Children and young people's physical and mental health is a key priority for this Government. £1.25bn will be invested in mental health over the next five years to improve services.
We need excellent healthcare at all levels. That's what five star healthcare is all about. Better public health, stronger mental health services, ambulances we can trust, the local care beds we need and first rate local hospitals. These are all essential to make sure our community is cared for in the best possible way.
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