Mike Hill MP: Care for our elderly should be a priority

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Sincere congratulations to the Urgent Care Team at Hartlepool Hospital and the Team at Stockton for winning the Regional NHS Heroes Award and good luck to both in the Parliamentary finals.

Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the NHS on July 5, it is fitting that we have such local heroes recognised.

Let us not forget that all NHS staff are part of a chain of care and in my book, they should all be acknowledged, just as they were by the Duchess of Cornwall, who said last Monday during the glitzy, but poignant, ITV NHS Awards that ‘Every NHS worker was a hero’.

Speaking of heroes, in the week which also saw the anniversary of the Manchester terrorist attack, I pay homage to those who died, the survivors and the emergency service workers who went to their assistance.

I know that some of our own from Hartlepool were caught up in the unimaginable horror and my thoughts are with them.

This week is Dementia Awareness Week and I am reminded of a campaign that I have long fought for well over two decades.

Dementia is a terrible illness, which at its most extreme, effectively strips a person of their dignity and identity.

It is a cruel condition and sadly is one that is on the increase, because thanks to the NHS and modern medicine we are all living longer on average.

Put simply, the care of our elderly population and for those suffering from dementia is a growing priority.

Government money will undoubtedly be needed to address the problem and yet nobody is truly taking the issue by the horns in local government.

Many years ago, councils by and large off loaded their Elderly People’s Homes to the private sector, thus creating a monopoly in which the state could be held to ransom by private care providers.

As we have seen from bitter experience in the town, one bad CQC report can see a Care Home close practically overnight, with the council being left to pick up the pieces and rehouse residents.

Sad to say dementia is rolling in like a tide, and through the amalgamation of health and social care budgets, local authorities have the opportunity to tackle the matter head on, chase down the funding which otherwise will go to the private sector and develop publicly owned and accountable care services once more.

Hence my opinion on the need to keep a watching eye on the proposed Health Village, and most certainly to push for Hartlepool to be a centre of excellence for the provision of Health and Social Care, through the creation of a Health and Social Care Academy to train our future care workers to high standards; ensure quality employment opportunities; and get the focus of care squarely back on the shoulders of the public sector, as the primary and preferred provider.

Anybody who disagrees just needs to look at the East Coast Mainline franchise and how that has failed and only ever made a profit under public ownership, or the collapsed Carillion whose bosses have been accused of stuffing their own mouths with gold rather than looking after the business proper or the public contracts awarded to them.

Finally, speaking of business, I really can’t thank the organisers of the Hartlepool Business Awards 2018 enough for inviting me along. Yes, I’ve met many business people, been around a number of sites and look forward to visiting others, but the energy and enthusiasm for what this town has to offer was electric that night.

I was well and truly blown away and invigorated by the positivity, outlook and enthusiasm of our entrepreneurs, young and old.

It was an eye opener and a brilliant night, and hats off to each and every one of them for making it so.