Since first being elected in 2010, I have been committed to ensuring our rural area receives a fair deal in healthcare and education. By 2023-4 the NHS budget is due to increase by £33.9 billion.
I am committed to improving local healthcare infrastructure. The Government has confirmed the first £3.7 billion of funding for 40 new hospitals. A further eight schemes will be invited to bid for future funding. I continue to follow developments very closely at Airedale Hospital – which serves Skipton and the wider Craven-area – and I continue to put the case forward for capital investment as 83% of the hospital is constructed from reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete.
In early February, I had a virtual meeting with Edward Argar MP, Minister for Health, to discuss improvements to Airedale Hospital. There was also a Westminster Hall debate on 15 June about building a new hospital. During the debate, Edward Argar MP agreed to visit Airedale Hospital and stated that he looks forward to working closely with local MPs, including Robbie Moore MP, Andrew Stephenson MP, Philip Davies MP and I, in seeking to deliver on the Government's ambition of levelling up and improving NHS services.
I will continue to make representations to the Department for Health and Social Care and engage closely with local stakeholders, including Brendan Brown, Chief Executive of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust. Indeed, last year Airedale Hospital received just under £250,000 to upgrade its emergency department from the wider package of £450 million for A&E improvement announced last year by the Prime Minister and also received £1.7 million to address the backlog of maintenance at Airedale General Hospital from the £600-million critical infrastructure risk fund.
Previously, I campaigned for the re-opening of Castleberg Hospital. This was successful and the hospital re-opened in 2019.
I am thankful to all our amazing front line workers; NHS staff, care workers and teachers have played a crucial role in our efforts against the coronavirus outbreak. I will continue to do everything I can to support them on a local and national level. It is very important for everyone to remain vigilant with social contact and continue to follow the rules and guidance from the Government in order to help save lives and protect the NHS.
I worked to ensure that the National Funding Formula was implemented by the Department of Education so that we could address the historic funding inequality in rural areas like ours, and I have been glad to hear on my visits, that schools in our area have been pleased with the additional funding.
The Coronavirus situation has, of course, significantly impacted children and young people in my constituency, not least their education. This is an issue I continue to follow very closely. I know how grateful parents are to teachers who have done outstanding work continuing to provide classes to our children. Yet I do understand and appreciate that remote learning is not the same as face-to-face learning– and there is also no doubt the disruption was difficult for not only children but also families as a whole. It is welcome news that all children in England have now been able to return to school.
In December, I visited Settle College and spoke with teachers about the curriculum, finance and student wellbeing. In recent months, I have spoken online to pupils from 12 schools in the constituency as part of UK Parliament Workshops.
It has been a pleasure to speak to the students and I have been very impressed with their interest in parliament, politics and how democracy functions. School visits and tours to Westminster have been paused due to current government guidelines. I look forward to the resumption of these visits and I hope the centre will reopen as soon as possible.
Online tours and educational workshops are available at: https://learning.parliament.uk/en