Category Archives: Victoria in Parliament

North Oxfordshire MP, Victoria Prentis, commits her support to Clean Air Day

Earlier this week, Victoria Prentis MP attended a photo-call in Westminster ahead of Clean Air Day, to express her support for action to help support plans to reduce pollution in North Oxfordshire.

The event was organised by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), with MPs calling for national action to make the UK’s air safe to breathe. This is particularly important for constituents with heart and circulatory conditions, who are at increased risk from air pollution.

Air pollution is now the greatest environmental risk factor linked to death in the UK, with 58 % of air pollution related deaths worldwide caused by heart disease or stroke. The BHF’s research has shed light on how harmful pollutants, such as particulate matter (small particles found in emissions from diesel engines and wood burning stoves), can have a direct impact on cardiovascular health and increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Clean air is an issue that has been discussed locally with Victoria, local Councillors and Leader of Cherwell District Council, Cllr Barry Wood, about the quality of air in Bicester, particularly given local growth.

Following the event, Victoria commented: ‘It is important that work to improve air quality so that my constituents living with heart and circulatory conditions do not need to worry about dirty air damaging their health when they leave the house. This is a particular concern for a number of individuals in my constituency, especially within areas of growth.”

Banbury MP Questions Jeremy Hunt MP on Funding for Patient Returns

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a new long-term funding plan for the NHS, Banbury MP Victoria Prentis questioned the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, about funding for patient returns.

The following transcript of Victoria’s speech has been taken from Hansard.

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): On Friday, I was lucky enough to visit the award-winning neck of femur service at the great Horton General Hospital. The length of time that patients stay is very dependent on great links between the hospital and social care. Does my right hon. Friend agree that spending to save is possible, so that even more of this great funding can be spent on patient returns?

Mr Hunt responded with “absolutely. The most important way of spending to save is to invest in prevention, and a lot of that work comes from strong local hospitals. Before my hon. Friend finally leaves this place, I have no doubt at all that her local hospital will be called not the Horton General Hospital, but the Great Horton General Hospital.”

Victoria Prentis MP Speaks in Tuberculosis Debate

On Thursday 7 June, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in a debate on Tuberculosis. Bovine TB remains an issue in the North Oxfordshire constituency and Victoria’s speech focuses on the importance of adequate funding and improved access to diagnosis and treatment services.

Please see below for a full transcript of Victoria’s speech, taken from Hansard.

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate and to follow some excellent speeches. I hope that we do not have to wait a further 65 years before we have the opportunity to debate this important matter again. My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) and the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) are vocal campaigners on this subject. I am encouraged by the fact that we are now giving it the attention it deserves, particularly in the same week as the UN civil society hearing on the fight against tuberculosis.

I would like to add to some of the dreadful statistics we have heard this afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) pointed out that around the world an estimated 700 children a day die from this disease. I want to make it clear that 80% of those deaths occur before that child is five. Fewer than 5% of those children have access to the sort of treatment that we all know could save their lives. Treatment gets ever easier. Thanks to DFID-funded research, new child-friendly drugs have been developed. They taste of strawberry and can be added to water in a single dose, which makes things much easier for doctors and parents who until now have had to try to get children to take adult-sized pills. We have done the research on so much of this. We now need to ensure that the treatment programmes are rolled out so that many, many more of those 700 children a day who are dying of this disease get the treatment that they need.

I heard what the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) said about treatment in countries where DFID is no longer actively engaged. That is critical in relation to the worldwide disease, but we should also be concerned that TB is still prevalent in the UK. Some of the highest rates in the developed world are found right here in the city we are standing in. My own family has personal experience of tuberculosis. When this matter was last debated in the Chamber, my grandfather was very ill and ultimately died of the disease in south Wales. Since I became an MP some three years ago, I have been surprised to note that I have had quite a lot of casework to do with TB in north Oxfordshire. One of those cases involves a constituent who moved to the UK in the late 1990s. He joined the British Army in 2009. During phase two of his basic training, he was diagnosed with TB. He had never been diagnosed with it before; it has been assumed that he contracted it during his training.

I have also had cases involving the immigration process for people applying for visas from countries including Morocco, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. They have to undergo quite invasive TB tests by a Home Office-approved clinic as part of their application process. Clearly, the Government, in the wider sense, recognise the extent of the problem, but there is perhaps not always the joined-up cross-departmental working needed to tackle it.

We should be proud of the Government’s efforts so far in the fight against tuberculosis. We should be proud of our contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The number of new TB infections is dropping. DFID’s support in developing new drug combinations to treat TB and the provision of funding to the TB Alliance demonstrates our commitment. In Oxfordshire—we heard earlier about Liverpool, so it is only fair that I mention Oxfordshire—we are fortunate to have one of the world’s largest TB vaccine research centres, based at the University of Oxford. With the support of the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, DFID and product development partnerships, the centre has been able to undertake cutting-edge research. I am hopeful that that will transform how we treat TB in the future.

There is clearly a great deal more to do. I am sure that the Minister will mention the progress we have made because of DFID’s investment in research. Like everybody else who has spoken, I would welcome assurances that the Prime Minister, or another senior Minister if she is unavailable, will attend the UN’s high-level meeting in September to ensure that research is appropriately funded and co-ordinated so that it can be sustained in future.

I am also concerned that primary healthcare services and maternal and child health programmes are too often run separately from TB programmes. Awareness among healthcare workers, and the capacity more broadly for diagnosis and treatment, remain limited. I hope that the Minister will be able to provide reassurances that she will look at how we improve access to vital diagnosis and treatment services, in particular for children with TB.

My grandfather probably got TB from infected milk. We do not know and we will never know. We still have much to learn about the way in which TB spreads and about cross-species transmission. I would not be doing my job as the Member for Banbury if I did not mention in a debate on TB the fact that bovine TB remains a very hot issue in the fields and market towns I represent. I appreciate that this falls outside the Minister’s remit, but I have serious concerns about the continued effect of bovine TB and its human impact on the farming communities I represent. The relevant Minister from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs met me and my hon. Friends the Members for Henley (John Howell) and for Witney (Robert Courts) earlier this week to discuss how to reduce TB in cows in our area. We looked at compensation levels for farmers and reduction mechanisms, such as whether we can stop store cattle being moved from high-risk to low-risk areas. We also talked about badger control. If we are to eradicate TB once and for all, we have to look at what is happening in species other than our own.

We have made great progress in the right direction, but there is still much more to do, both at home and abroad. I hope that we will have the chance to talk about tuberculosis many times before we reach our goal—hopefully well before 2030—of eliminating it.

 

 

NORTH OXFORDSHIRE MP WELCOMES TIER 2 VISA CHANGES

Hands off Horton Cropped

North Oxfordshire MP, Victoria Prentis, has welcomed the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid’s, decision to relax Tier 2 visa restrictions for skilled workers coming into the UK. The easing of restrictions means that British businesses and employers will be able to hire up to an extra 8000 skilled migrants from across the world from a wide range of professions including medicine, teaching and engineering. The Home Office has confirmed that NHS doctors and nurses will be excluded from restrictions to the number of visas granted to skilled non-EU migrant workers.

Recruitment in health services has been an ongoing issue locally given the temporary downgrade of maternity services in Banbury. Following a visit to the Churchill hospital with Oxfordshire colleagues, Victoria has been a vocal supporter of relaxing Tier 2 visa requirements and has worked with local campaign groups, Parliamentary colleagues and the Government to achieve this.

Speaking this morning, Victoria said: “The Government’s decision to relax Tier 2 visa restrictions is a positive step towards helping recruitment, particularly in the NHS. I have had a number of meetings with businesses and health bosses locally to talk about recruitment and ways we can support it. Recruitment affects many industries in my constituency and I hope that this is just one of many solutions to support essential services in North Oxfordshire.”

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP JOINS ALZHEIMER’S SOCIETY CAMPAIGN TO FIX DEMENTIA CARE

180523 Alzheimers Society Cropped

On Wednesday 23 May, Victoria joined over 90 other Members of Parliament at an Alzheimer’s Society event to launch their new report, Dementia – the true cost as part of their Fix Dementia Care campaign.

This Dementia Action Week (21-27 May) Alzheimer’s Society is asking the general public to take small actions that can have a big impact on the lives of people with dementia. MPs were asked to take action by attending an event in Westminster to learn more about how they can support Alzheimer’s Society’s work.

Alzheimer’s Society has been campaigning to fix dementia care to ensure that everyone with dementia receives good quality care when they need it. Their new report, Dementia – the true cost, highlights the far-reaching impact of the broken social care system on people with dementia.

The report, based on testimony and evidence from people affected by dementia, social care professionals and dementia lead nurses, also outlines urgent areas for Government to address in its upcoming Green Paper on social care reform. 

Victoria Prentis MP commented: “I am proud this Dementia Action Week to have united with people with dementia to fix dementia care. One million people will have dementia by 2021 and it is vital that we are able to deliver high quality social care to everyone that needs it.”

Sally Copley, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society said: “This Dementia Action Week, as we’re asking everyone across the UK to take actions big or small to help people with dementia, it’s brilliant to see positive action from people and we’re looking forward to working with Victoria Prentis MP to respond to the public demand for change. Our Fix Dementia Care campaign has exposed the poor quality care that people with dementia are currently receiving, and this must end now.”

Earlier in Dementia Action Week, Alzheimer’s Society delivered Dementia Friends sessions to both the Cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet. Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends is a trailblazing initiative that aims to help people understand what it might be like to live with dementia and turn that understanding into actions.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP CALLS ON NORTH OXFORDSHIRE TO SUPPORT EQUALITY WITH A CUP OF TEA

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To mark the centenary of some women getting the vote, and 90 years since men and women over 21 gained the right to vote, Victoria Prentis MP is inviting everyone in North Oxfordshire to sign-up to EqualiTeas to share, debate, and celebrate what equality means to them over a cup of tea.

 

2018 marks 100 years since The Representation of the People Act 1918 extended the right to vote to all men over 21 and the first women, making this one of the most important centenaries in British democratic history. Ten years later The Representation of the People Act 1928, gave all men and women over 21 the right to vote. These acts followed years of campaigning, with the first petition to Parliament asking for votes for women was presented to the House of Commons on 3 August 1832.

 

As part of programme of events from UK Parliament to mark these important milestones for democracy, EqualiTeas will take place between 18 June and 2 July.

Historically, tea parties were hotbeds of political activism. It was one of the few ways women could meet without men to discuss and plan. The leading suffrage organisations used tea parties and tea shops as central elements in their campaigning, to increase awareness, discuss tactics and raise money. But, events do not have to be a tea party, just an event or activity that brings people together to discuss equality, and anyone can hold an EqualiTeas tea party, whether it is big or small, private or public, inside or out.

 

Victoria Prentis MP said: “The Representation of the People Act 1928 was a vital step towards the rights women and men have today, and these anniversaries are an incredibly important opportunity for us to reflect on how far we have come.

 

“We all know that there is still more to do when it comes to equality in Britain, and EqualiTeas is an excellent opportunity to reach out to others in our community and share our ideas for an even more equal society, while celebrating the strides we have already made. I hope that groups across North Oxfordshire will get behind this exciting initiative.”

 

David Clark, Head of Education and Engagement at UK Parliament, said “Whether it’s chatting about the issues over a cup of tea, or engaging with one of the many exciting events as part of this year’s UK Parliament Week, there are many opportunities for schools, workplaces and community groups across North Oxfordshire to get involved in these key anniversaries.

 

“We can only work towards a more equal society by communicating with each other and building stronger communities, so please sign up for EqualiTeas to share the things we have in common and debate the changes we would like to see.”

 

Everyone who registers an event on the EqualiTeas website (equaliteas.org.uk) will receive a free pack of resources, including an EqualiTeas board game. Visit Parliament’s resource page for help with ideas, planning and publicising your event.

 

The Vote 100 programme includes a wide range of events and activities commemorating the women and men who fought to achieve electoral equality. Parliament has also released a series of hard-hitting films to highlight how four key acts changed the lives of women as part of its Your Story, Our History series.

 

There will be a major exhibition in Parliament – “Voice and Vote” – as well as an exciting programme of talks and tours in Parliament, and a number of UK-wide events, such as UK Parliament Week 2018.

HOOKY ON TAP IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

Hooky sign in Strangers Bar Cropped

On Wednesday 28 February, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, welcomed Hook Norton brewery to the House of Commons.

Strangers Bar in Parliament regularly plays host to ‘guest beers’ from constituencies across the UK and Victoria invited her own constituency favourite, Hook Norton Brewery to feature this week. The beer is one of Hook Norton’s finest ales, and will be available for MPs and Peers to try for a limited period.

James Clarke and Mark Graham from the brewery travelled down to Westminster to pull a pint and celebrate the occasion.

Victoria commented: “I was thrilled to welcome Hook Norton brewery to Parliament this week and showcase one of my constituency’s finest products. Hooky is one of my favourite beers so I was really pleased to have the opportunity for my colleagues to enjoy it at Westminster too.”

James Clarke, Managing Director of Hook Norton Brewery added: “It was a great opportunity for us to bring along our beer and talk about the brewing process here at Hook Norton Brewery. It is an increasingly tough market and we work very hard to produce a honest, quality beer so to have the opportunity to showcase it here was fantastic.  We have been handcrafting our beers in Oxfordshire for 169 years and hope to continue for many years to come.”

Victoria with James Clarke in Strangers Bar, House of Commons.

Victoria with James Clarke in Strangers Bar, House of Commons.

MP JOINS COLLEAGUES TO SPEAK IN OXFORDSHIRE NHS STAFF RECRUITMENT & RETENTION DEBATE

180220 Oxon MPs NHS Recruitment & Retention debate Cropped

On Tuesday 20 February, Banbury MP Victoria Prentis spoke in a debate on the recruitment and retention of NHS staff in Oxfordshire. During the course of the debate, which was secured by Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran, Victoria emphasised the need to be creative with recruitment ideas, have greater clarity when considering the domino effect of staffing shortages, and communicate more openly and transparently.

Speaking after the debate, Victoria said: “I was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this important debate. Recruiting and retaining NHS staff in Oxfordshire has been an ongoing issue for many years now. The current situation at the Horton’s maternity unit is a daily reminder for us all. We need to think outside the box and tackle the problems together, particularly in light of the Care Quality Commission’s recent full system review of the local health system. We are in urgent need of a vision for our health service and must keep up the pressure.”

 

Full text of Victoria’s speech:

Thank you, Mr Hollobone, and it is a pleasure to take part in the debate. I thank the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) for securing it.

It is great to see all my fellow Oxfordshire colleagues present today. If I may say so, they have all been great allies in my fight to save acute services at the Horton General Hospital. Talking about recruitment in some detail is particularly useful, because that is our greatest local challenge with regard to good healthcare.

It is also good to see the Minister in his place. Since he took up his role, he and I have spoken many times about the issues faced at the Horton. We in Banbury are waiting patiently to hear the outcome of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s initial assessment of the permanent downgrade of our maternity services. Our hopes are pinned on a full review, and we were due to find out 10 days ago whether that would take place. We have heard nothing yet, but I am watching the post with interest.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel is familiar with our situation, having looked at similar proposals to downgrade maternity at the Horton back in 2008. Just as recruitment was the contributing factor almost 10 years ago, the failure to fill middle-grade vacancies at the Horton’s obstetric unit was the straw that broke the camel’s back in 2016. However, failures in recruitment are not, as we have heard, unique to maternity services at the Horton. We have spoken briefly about chemotherapy services at the Churchill, and at a meeting in January with local GPs, many expressed concerns about the sustainability of their practices in the current recruitment climate. Last week, the Care Quality Commission observed the following in its full and, if I may say so, quite critical review of the local system, which the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon has quoted and which I will carry on a little:

“The system in Oxfordshire was particularly challenged by the issues of workforce retention and recruitment across all professions and staff grades, especially acute hospital staff…and in the domiciliary…market. This resulted in staff shortages, heavy workloads and impacted upon seamless care delivery and integration of services.”

I am reassured that the Department takes recruitment seriously and has invested significant time and resources in addressing current workforce challenges across the nation. Attracting more people to the profession and training them takes many years. The cost of living in our area is high and London weighting is a significant pull factor out of our area, particularly given our very reliable transport links to the capital. We may be a wealthy county but we must think creatively to overcome the current challenges. The future of our services depends on that.

When I called for help, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of local schools and businesses in my area, which offered discounted school fees, free shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt, and free beer from Hook Norton—that made the headlines—to any prospective obstetricians who wanted to apply for a job at the Horton General. As a leading house building authority, Cherwell District Council has been exemplary in its support for the Horton, exploring the possibility of golden handshakes and providing key worker housing. A local developer came forward to offer one of its new build properties to any obstetrician looking to relocate to our area. Yet all of these offers remain completely unexplored by the local hospital trust, which has refused repeatedly to engage with me on this issue.

Last September, the Secretary of State announced plans to offer salary supplements to GPs in rural and coastal regions, which was a really welcome development. Market towns such as Banbury, Bicester, Abingdon and the many others represented in this Chamber desperately need similar incentives to attract newly trained professionals, whether through an Oxfordshire weighting or a ring-fenced housing allowance. I have no particular view about which would be the more effective incentive—I am happy to explore both. More money is always welcome, but it does not have to be the only answer. Just yesterday, I heard from a Banbury GP who has not been able to recruit a fully qualified international GP who is a resident outside the EU, because of problems with the tier 2 visa requirements. The person is an Australian who trained in Banbury and is very familiar with the local system, and we would really value having her back.

It is important that we consider specialties such as general practice and obstetrics when looking at the shortage occupation list that needs to be filled, because there are gaps in those areas too. We must think outside the box and talk across Departments to find the solutions that we desperately need. We must also have some clarity. When obstetric services at the Horton were suspended in August 2016, we were told that the rota needed six obstetricians to operate safely. But the goalposts were moved; the trust now tells us that nine are needed before the unit can reopen. Those decisions have real consequences. We must know the potential domino effect that shortages can have on other medical rotas. Since maternity services at the Horton were downgraded, the hospital has, in turn, lost one of its anaesthetic rotas. Difficulties attracting professionals to CT1 and CT2 posts pose a very real risk to the future sustainability of the one remaining rota. Until that can be full resolved, the threat to all acute services at the Horton cannot be fully ruled out.

Finally, we must learn, as I say repeatedly, to communicate openly and transparently. Extracting recruitment information from the trust is painfully slow. Rather than offer updates, it leaves us to ask for meetings. We are still waiting for the meeting that my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts) requested for us to discuss recruitment at the Churchill. Yet when I made remarks on local radio about a perceived culture of secrecy, the trust chairman was very quick to summon me to meet her. I was told by the trust that all Oxfordshire MPs would be sent a detailed briefing on recruitment and retention challenges by 1 February. I have not had such a briefing and I do not know whether other hon. Members have.

Time and again I have offered assistance with tackling recruitment. Schools and businesses made generous offers to attract obstetricians, and I am furious that the trust continues to fail to engage. I am hopeful that the CQC report provides a long overdue reality check and that we start to see a real step change in its approach. I have made clear numerous times that we MPs are ready and waiting to help. I am really hopeful that under the new excellent interim head of the clinical commissioning group, we will start to develop a vision for our future healthcare, which we have so desperately lacked for so long.

This year we mark 70 years of the NHS. I am hopeful that many of the hard-working staff in Oxfordshire will be recognised at the upcoming parliamentary awards. I am particularly grateful to the dedicated Horton midwives who now face an almost three-hour round commute to and from the John Radcliffe, following the downgrade of our unit. Experience has taught us that we need to keep up the pressure.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP OPTS TO #PASSONPLASTIC WITH SKY OCEAN RESCUE

Image licensed to i-Images Picture Agency. 06/02/2018. London, United Kingdom. Sky Ocean Rescue-Portcullis House - Picture by Stephen Lock / i-Images

This month, Victoria Prentis MP has made two commitments to reduce her consumption of single-use plastics. She has signed Sky Ocean Rescue’s #PassOnPlastic pledge, and joined fellow MPs in giving up plastic for lent. In particular, Victoria will focus on reducing her use of disposable plastic bottles.

Launched in January 2017, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to shine a spotlight on the issues of ocean health, particularly single-use plastic, and inspire people to make small changes. The #PassOnPlastic pledge was signed by 113 MPs in total, all making a public commitment to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics. Victoria also visited, Plasticus, Sky Ocean Rescue’s whale, which is made up of a quarter of a ton of plastic – the amount that enters our oceans every second.

Victoria commented: ‘My own awareness of the devastation plastic causes to our oceans has really grown over the last few months, as has that of the general public. Seeing the sheer size of Plasticus, and knowing that it reflects the amount of plastic entering our oceans every second, was shocking.

I look forward to seeing how I get on over the next month – I am sure there will be some challenges but I am determined to do what I can to reduce my own contribution to this problem. I launched the Refill scheme in Banbury and Bicester last year, and I am sure it will help me stick to my pledge by telling me where I can fill up my water bottle when out and about – I would strongly encourage everyone in the constituency to download the app!’

#HERstory: Councillor Lucy Donaldson

I was elected a Banbury Town Councillor in May 2016 at the age of 19. When I found out that I was successful I was a mixture of emotions. Elated, proud and shocked to name a few. In a male dominated council, I had more votes than some of my highly experienced colleagues.

I was not expecting to be the youngest town councillor Banbury had ever had, but I am utterly honoured to represent women inside and outside of politics.

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