Tag Archives: featured

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

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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.

MP ENCOURAGES CONSTITUENTS TO START A NEW CHAPTER FOLLOWING VISIT TO READING CHARITY

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On Friday 9 February 2018, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire visited Bicester-based charity, Assisted Reading for Children (ARCh) Oxfordshire. The visit provided an opportunity to meet those who run the charity and explore ways Victoria can support them with their work in schools going forward.

ARCh works in over 100 primary schools across Oxfordshire, helping hundreds of children to read every year. They recruit, train and support volunteers in primary schools, offering individual sessions with children. Within this, volunteers help to inspire young people through reading, games, drawing and writing stories, helping to boost their confidence.

During the meeting, Victoria and the ARCh team discussed ways in which she can help them as a charity and help to raise awareness of the work that they do.

Victoria commented: “My family and I are all obsessed with reading and books so it was great to visit ARCh and discuss the wonderful work that they do. It is clear that such support couldn’t be given without the dedication of their volunteers and I look forward to working with them to increase awareness.”

Elaine Adams, ARCh Development Manager added: “ARCh are always on the lookout for more volunteers especially in areas of greatest need such as Blackbird Leys, Cowley, Abingdon, Bicester and Banbury and we are particularly keen to link with any business who wish to connect with local school communities through our company volunteering scheme. For more information on getting involved, visit our website: www.archoxfordshire.org.uk/become-a-volunteer/.”

 

 

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!’

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP SUPPORTS CAMPAIGN TO INSPIRE THE NEXT GENERATION OF ENGINEERS

171206 Year of Engineering launch

This year, Victoria Prentis, MP for North Oxfordshire is supporting a national campaign to get more young people into engineering, joining government and industry in a united effort to tackle a major skills gap.

The Year of Engineering, which launched on Monday 15 January, will see the Government and MPs work with industry partners to raise the profile of engineering among young people aged 7-16, their parents and teachers. The initiative will include offering direct experiences of engineering to young people from all backgrounds – from behind the scenes tours and family days out, to school visits and the chance to meet engineering role models.

Victoria will be supporting the campaign in North Oxfordshire by reaching out to schools in her constituency, including the Bicester Technology Studio and Banbury Space Studio, who both specialise in a new approach to learning including engineering and technology.

Before Christmas, she joined more than 30 MPs at a Parliamentary reception. The event marked the publication of the Institution for Engineering and Technology’s annual Skills Survey report – which looks at the skills challenges faced by engineering and technology employers in the UK.

The commitment comes as the UK faces an estimated shortfall of 20,000 engineering graduates a year. Half of companies in the sector say the shortage is having a significant impact on productivity and growth. By bringing young people from all backgrounds face to face with engineering experiences and role models, the campaign aims to showcase the creativity and innovation of engineering careers and widen the pool of young people considering the profession.

More than 1000 partners have signed up to support the Year of Engineering, including Siemens, the Science Museum Group, Ocado, Usborne, BAE Systems and Crossrail. Teaming up with partners from many different sectors, the Government will deliver a year of UK-wide school visits, exhibitions and open doors events – all aimed at encouraging young people and their parents to take a closer look at engineering.

Victoria commented: “In North Oxfordshire we are particularly lucky to have two schools dedicated to engineering and technology. They provide a unique opportunity for young people in the area. I am looking forward to doing what I can to work with both pupils and businesses over the coming months as part of the Year of Engineering. It is important that we encourage and inspire young people to turn to the engineering sector as we move forward and continue to grow as a country.”

To find out more, visit the Year of Engineering partner website or follow the campaign on Twitter.

MP HOSTS NEXT STOP ON HER ‘NEW RESIDENTS’ ROADSHOW’ IN BANBURY

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Friday 12 January saw Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, host her second ‘New Residents’ Roadshow’ at Longford Park, Banbury.

With North Oxfordshire experiencing five times the national average of house building, Victoria was keen to meet those moving into her constituency and discuss any issues they have, particularly on the new developments. The second of her roadshows, hosted at Longford Park Primary School, took place on Friday evening, giving residents the chance to meet their MP and neighbours.

The event was well attended by people from across the development; key topics of conversation included street lighting, road safety, and community facilities. Cherwell District Council’s Community Development Partner, Rosie Phillips, also came along to offer her support.

After the roadshow, Victoria commented: “It was great to meet so many people of varying ages and welcome them to the area. I know there are a number of unresolved issues in Longford Park so it is helpful to chat to residents about their concerns or suggestions.  

I look forward to taking my roadshow back to Bicester in March and then return to a new development in Banbury later on this year.”

 

BANBURY MP, VICTORIA PRENTIS, WELCOMES HORTON REFERRAL

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Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, Victoria Prentis, has welcomed today the Secretary of State’s decision to refer the permanent downgrade of Banbury’s maternity unit to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).

On 10 August 2017, the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) resolved to make permanent the temporary suspension of consultant-led maternity at the Horton General Hospital. As a result, the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC), chaired by Cllr Arash Fatemian, referred the matter to Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

Following on from the outcome of the recent Judicial Review hearing, which found in favour of the CCG, Victoria pressed upon the Department of Health the importance of moving forward, given widespread uncertainty about the future of the unit.

Today, the Secretary of State wrote to Victoria to let her know that he would be passing the matter onto the IRP to undertake an initial assessment before deciding whether it conducts a full review. In his referral, he drew upon the opposition of local councils and their responsibility to scrutinise decisions.

Victoria commented: “I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to pass the decision to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel for consideration. It is with regret that we find ourselves in a similar position to 2008, when the IRP were last asked to look at maternity provision at the Horton General Hospital. The IRP is the independent expert on NHS service change; it takes into account all available evidence in order to advise the Secretary of State on contested proposals. I have no doubt that they will look at this matter properly, and am hopeful that they will agree to undertake a full investigation.”

Cllr Kieron Mallon, a longstanding Banbury Councillor and campaigner for the Horton also commented: “For those of us who were involved in 2008 we think it is right and proper for the Secretary of State to refer this on. We are all hopeful that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel will investigate this fully as they did the previous referral.”

A NEW YEAR MESSAGE FROM VICTORIA PRENTIS MP

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2017 has been marked by its unpredictability. Navigating the uncharted waters of Brexit has dominated national headlines. At Westminster, the final few weeks of the year were spent analysing the EU Withdrawal Bill line-by-line. With 405 amendments and 85 new clauses, it meant a lot of late nights but was an extremely thorough process. I spent as much time as possible in the Chamber, listening to colleagues make often impassioned contributions. My own approach was to try to improve the Bill, particularly as I represent a constituency which voted narrowly to leave. We must respect the result and seek to secure a deal that guarantees a deep and special partnership with the EU.

 

While Brexit may have taken centre stage nationally, our fight to keep acute services at the Horton General Hospital has, quite rightly, been our main focus locally. We remain unhappy about the decision to remove obstetric services at the hospital but the sheer grit and determination of campaigners has been extraordinary. The judicial review may not have been successful, but Mr Justice Mostyn’s judgment only served to reinforce my profound discomfort about the way in which the Clinical Commissioning Group ran the Phase One consultation. The Secretary of State can be in no doubt about how I feel. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel must have the opportunity to conduct an investigation into the downgrade of maternity services.

 

A fully functioning hospital is more important than ever as we build houses at a rate three times the national average. I am not blind to the challenges of such unprecedented growth. My new Residents’ Roadshow has made it very clear that, from potholes to post boxes, a joined up approach between local authorities and developers is essential as we continue to grow. Ensuring both old and new residents feel part of the same community is paramount to the success of our new housing estates. When we work together, we really can achieve results. Nowhere is that more obvious than the Great British Spring Clean, Singing for Syrians and Refill – three campaigns I have been closely involved with in 2017.

 

I am hopeful that these initiatives will grow from strength to strength in the coming year. I accept that 2018 will not be easy as we continue to negotiate our departure from the EU. While I may have to spend the majority of my week at Westminster, my focus will remain on working hard for all those who live in North Oxfordshire. I may not have the solution to every problem but I could not be more committed to ensuring that all my constituents have a prosperous and peaceful New Year.

 

Victoria Prentis MP

1 January 2018

OXFORDSHIRE MPS TEAM UP TO RAISE MONEY FOR SYRIA

171212 St Margs VP and LM

On Tuesday 12 December, Oxford West & Abingdon MP, Layla Moran sang in the choir of the 2017 flagship “Singing for Syrians” concert. Over 600 people attended the event at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, which was organised by neighbouring MP, Victoria Prentis, and raised money for the Hands Up Foundation who support a number of projects to help the most vulnerable who remain in Syria.

Alongside the choir, which was made up of fourteen Members of Parliament, a number of celebrities read at the concert, including Samuel West, Julie Christie and Martin Jarvis. Alexander Armstrong performed “Winter Wonderland”. The event raised over £32,000 through sponsorship, the retiring collection and ticket donations.  

Victoria Prentis MP said: “I was delighted to recruit Layla to the MP choir. Singing together is a simple yet effective way to raise money for those most in need in Syria. It is really important to me that the choir is cross-party – it shows that we can all work together to help some of the world’s most vulnerable people. They all sang beautifully and showed that the plight of the Syrian people has not been forgotten.”

Layla Moran MP added: “It was a privilege to sing in the choir at such a magical event. In my youth I went to Damascus when my family lived in Jordan. My heart breaks for the people whose lives have been affected by the conflict, and so when Victoria told me about this event I jumped at the chance to do my little bit. I’d like to thank all those in Oxfordshire who held similar events, the Hands Up Foundation for the amazing work they do, and Victoria for putting the event together. I hope to participate again next year!”

NORTH OXFORDSHIRE MP OPENS HEYFORD YOUTH CENTRE

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On Saturday 9 December, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, kicked off Christmas festivities in Heyford Park, opening the community’s new Youth Centre.

Heyford Park Youth Group (now a registered charity) was established in April 2017 by local residents, including Tom Beckett and Dave Beesley. It was felt that the area needed more activities for young people, particularly while it undergoes significant redevelopment. Starting out from a room in the Community Centre, it now occupies a building provided by developers Dorchester Living. The Group will eventually move into its own permanent, purpose-built facility. Activities are currently aimed at 13-18 year olds, but it is hoped that those as young as ten will soon be catered for.

Residents have come together to raise money, donate items and help the group renovate the building.  In addition, Upper Heyford Parish Council has provided funds to refurbish the site and run it for the first year, with additional support available if required in the future.

After the opening, Victoria said: “It was an honour to be invited to open the new youth centre in Heyford Park. With a growing community, it is important that all age groups are provided with the necessary facilities. It’s lovely to see the community spirit that has turned this vision into a reality.”

Tom Beckett, a founder of the Youth Group and resident commented: “Dave Beesley and I are very proud of this project, not just because we are providing a new youth facility, but because the whole community has contributed in some way to get us from our initial vision to a fully funded and furnished youth facility.”

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