There is so much happening at the moment that it is hard to know where to begin. As Government cuts hit hard in Burnley and Padiham I am devoting a lot of my time on the fight to save local services. I have spent many hours liaising with the bus companies to save vital bus services. These discussions are not complete and I will not rest until I know that all routes have some provision. In addition our community centres and libraries are also at risk. These facilities are hugely valued by the people that they serve and I am working with community groups across the town to save these wherever possible. I have visited many of these centres personally and spoken with service users and this Monday I met with representatives from the community centres in Stoops and Daneshouse and Stoneyholme to support the community's campaigns to save the centres from closure.
On Tuesday I met with teachers’ representatives to discuss their concerns about the Government’s proposal to turn all primary and secondary schools into academies. The teachers are totally opposed to these plans, which they believe are nothing more than a gimmick and will do nothing to raise educational standards. In my view the most worrying part of all this is that plan is being forced on us with no discussion and without any consultation whatsoever. Consequently teachers are already considering taking industrial action to challenge the legality of the Government’s actions. This has the potential to be hugely damaging to the education of our children and I will be raising my concerns directly with the Secretary of State for Education and I will be working with my colleagues in Westminster in an attempt to avert a major crisis in our education system. The Government is already at war with the junior doctors and now it seems that they want to pick a fight with the teachers.
Against this background of worry and uncertainty in our schools I must say that I enjoyed a lovely afternoon at Rosewood Primary School in Burnley. The children were very enthusiastic and the Year 6 Class proved to be very knowledgeable about the democratic process and the children were a credit to their teachers.
On Friday I held a very busy surgery in my constituency office and then it was off to do an evening shift in the Accident and Emergency Department at Blackburn hospital. I have often attended the A&E with family members but it was good to have the opportunity to go behind the scenes to speak with doctors and nurses about the work that they do. I spent time in resuscitation, paediatrics and also with Majors and Minors. The A&E is one of the busiest in England and staff are under a great deal of pressure to achieve waiting time targets. On Friday night the unit was not at its busiest but any one time there were about 30 patients being attended to. Progress through the unit is regularly hampered because of a shortage of inpatient beds. This often arises when hospital discharges are delayed because there is insufficient support in the community to support vulnerable groups with complex/multiple needs such as the elderly or mentally ill patients. This then often means that patients are left waiting on trolleys in the corridors of A&E. This is clearly distressing for all concerned; no one wants to stay in hospital a minute longer than necessary nor do they want to be stuck in a hospital corridor. Clearly until care in the community is properly resourced there will continue to be backlogs in A&E.
None of this is any reflection on the staff on the contrary I was very impressed throughout by the dedication and enthusiasm of all the staff that I met. Without exception everyone seemed committed to providing the highest standards of care for their patients. Effective team work was very much in evidence and staff morale seemed reasonably high though it was clear that the Junior Doctors’ dispute was casting a shadow.