Julian Knight's Westminster Diary, 29/03/18

Solihull Observer.

This week’s announcement that our local Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) is to merge with University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) Trust, after months of hard work, is hugely welcome.

Many of you will have been following my efforts to ensure local views are respected during the troubles at HEFT. This is the organisation which was responsible for many of our local Health Service, including Solihull Hospital.

However, it ran up enormous debts which threatened to cast a deep shadow over life-saving facilities and services. Fortunately Dame Julie Moore, of UHB, was prepared to step in, and she and her team have made great progress in getting HEFT back on track.

However, I wanted to make sure that this progress was locked in for the long term, and to that end I have been pushing for the two trusts to merge permanently. I have lobbied Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and his ministerial team on this issue and even went so far as to ask Theresa May directly for her support during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Before Christmas I convened a roundtable meeting with the then Minister, health officials, and officials from NHS Improvement. At this roundtable, we were able to smooth out some of the issues and make real progress towards this week’s announcement.

I will continue to work with Dame Julie to make sure that the new, larger trust is just as responsive to the particular needs of Solihull having developed a good working relationship with her and her team, and will continue to speak up for the needs of our town.

I’m always proud to use my role as your MP to support NHS staff – only last week I asked the Health Secretary in Parliament about how the Government is helping nurses with issues such as the work-life balance, training, and relations with management.

 After years of pay restraint the Government and the unions have agreed to a 6.5 per cent pay rise for over 1.3 million NHS staff. Some workers – the deal includes nurses, porters, and paramedics – will receive up to 29 per cent over the next three years, at a cost of £4.2 billion.

We’re also going to open five new medical schools across the country. Combined with plans to increase capacity at existing schools, the Government intends to increase student places by 25 per cent – and that means 1,500 extra students a year by 2020.

Finally I’m delighted that the Health Secretary has just announced plans to train an extra 3,000 midwives over the next four years. This is part of an ambitious plan to cut infant mortality and could save the lives of 700 babies a year by 2021, as well as spare an extra 500 from being born with brain damage.

Originally published in the Solihull Observer, 29/03/18.