Since first being elected in 2010, I have been committed to ensuring our rural area receives a fair deal in healthcare and education.
NHS England’s resource budget is due to increase to £165.9 billion in 2024/25, this is equivalent to a £38.9 billion cash increase over this parliament. Recently, the Chancellor announced the biggest ever increase in social care spending, an extra £7.5 billion split over 2 years, on top of £6.6 billion already being invested over the same period. The budget for health services will increase to over £165 billion by 2025.
The Government are committed to protecting our NHS workforce, this will include publishing the long-term workforce plan and implementing pension tax reforms to encourage experienced doctors to remain in the profession for longer.
I am very aware of some treatment delays and the elective backlog nationally caused by the extreme pressures of the pandemic. It continues to be a priority for this Government to support the NHS’s recovery from the pandemic. £97 million has been budgeted for the Coronavirus response across the health and social sector. Moreover, over £8 billion will be spent up to 2024/25 to support the delivery of around nine million more checks, scans and procedures. The Government remains vigilant and will keep ensuring it does everything possible for our NHS.
Locally, I continue to push for improvements to local healthcare infrastructure. I am particularly pleased that the Government have recently committed to rebuilding Airedale Hospital by 2030, as part of the New Hospital Programme.
Airedale is one of five more hospitals constructed mostly using reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) – a type of concrete used in the mid-20th Century that is now failing.
Following an initial announcement of £3.7 billion of funding for 40 new hospitals, the Government has now committed to over £20 billion of investment in hospital infrastructure, including at Airedale – protecting patient and staff safety. This will deliver a brand new, state-of-the-art facility, ensuring my constituents can access world-class healthcare for many more generations to come.
This announcement – which will enable Airedale Hospital to continue to serve Skipton and the wider Craven-area – follows years of campaigning by myself and others. I have held numerous meetings with ministerial and parliamentary colleagues to specifically discuss improvements to Airedale Hospital, and have raised the issue in parliamentary debates, getting commitments from ministerial colleagues to visit.
Alongside this fantastic news, I will continue to make representations to the highest levels of Government and work with local MPs – including Robbie Moore MP, Andrew Stephenson MP and Philip Davies MP – to do everything possible to build on this investment and ensure our constituents have access to lifesaving healthcare. I will also continue to engage closely with local stakeholders, including the leadership at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust.
Indeed, in addition to the recent New Hospital Programme announcement, in 2020 alone, Airedale Hospital received just under £250,000 to upgrade its emergency department from the wider package of £450 million announced for A&E improvement. It received a further £1.7 million to address the backlog of maintenance at Airedale General Hospital from the £600 million critical infrastructure risk fund. As such, a new state-of-the-art critical care facility has been built at Airedale Hospital, the first known all electric inpatient unit in the NHS, which forms part of the hospital's ward decant programme to allow structural works to be undertaken.
I am also very pleased that Ripon Community Hospital has been selected as the site of a new, state-of-the-art community diagnostic centre (CDC). Opening in December 2023, this permanent centre will be capable of delivering 27,107 checks, tests and scans every year. These include Ultrasound, X-ray, Audiology, Phlebotomy, Spirometry, ECG and blood pressure monitoring, as well as additional diagnostic services tailored to meet the needs of the community.
The Ripon CDC will play a major role in cutting waiting lists locally, with a particular emphasis on reducing elective and cancer backlogs, as well as pre and post op testing. The Government’s target is that, by March 2025, 95 per cent of patients needing a diagnostic test will receive it within 6 weeks.
Previously, I campaigned for the re-opening of Castleberg Hospital. This was successful and the Hospital re-opened in 2019.
As far as education locally, 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.
Recently, I have visited Skipton Academy, Settle College, and Brooklands School within my constituency. It has always been a pleasure to speak to students and I have been very impressed with their interest in parliament, politics and how democracy functions. From May 2021 to the end of 2022 I have spoken with over 26 different schools on their trips to Parliament which usually include educational workshops provided by the UK Parliament Education Centre.
Tours and educational workshops are available to book at: https://learning.parliament.uk/en