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VICTORIA PRENTIS MP WELCOMES PARLIAMENT WEEK TO NORTH OXFORDSHIRE

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Victoria Prentis MP got involved in Parliament Week, an annual programme of events to connect people with UK Parliament.

Parliament Week has seen schools, museums, charities and businesses around the country join in a week long programme of activities and events which explore what the UK Parliament means to them and their community.

On Friday 18 November, Victoria visited Hill View Primary School in Banbury to meet with pupils and discuss how the UK parliament affects them.

Victoria commented: “UK Parliament week is a brilliant opportunity for organisations here in North Oxfordshire to get involved in this national programme. There are many ways you can get involved whether it be a debate, exhibition, or a discussion with your friends and family. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Hill View School, to talk to local children about government and my role as an MP.”

THE WARRINER SCHOOL CLAIMS VICTORY AT SECOND ANNUAL CHERWELL DEMOCRACY CHALLENGE

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On 25 November, Victoria Prentis MP and Cherwell District Council welcomed six secondary schools from her constituency to take part in the second annual Cherwell Democracy Challenge at the Council’s offices at Bodicote House.

In the first two rounds, each team of four debated whether councils should rehouse Syrian refugees, and if rules restricting the creation of new grammar schools should be relaxed. While the students knew the topics beforehand, and had been provided with a short information sheet, they did not know which side of the debate they would be on until the day. The controversial topics provided some lively debate, with many of the students arguing their case with conviction.

After a lunch kindly provided by the Council, the two finalists were announced as Blessed George Napier Catholic School and The Warriner School. They were given time to prepare for the final motion on Parliament’s role in the UK’s exit from the European Union while the rest of the students took part in a Q&A session with judges Councillor Barry Wood, Councillor Colin Clarke, Anita Higham OBE, Chris Lillington and Paul Angus.

The final was a close-fought match in the main council chamber, with both sides providing some convincing arguments. In the end, The Warriner were declared the winners.

Victoria commented: “The Cherwell Democracy Challenge was a wonderful event. It is fast becoming an annual fixture for local schools. I was delighted to see how much the standard had improved from last year’s inaugural event. The Warriner were worthy winners but I was really impressed by all the schools who took part and I look forward to seeing them again next year.

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Victoria with the winning team from The Warriner School, Bloxham.

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Judges Chris Lillington, Anita Higham OBE, Victoria Prentis MP, Cllr Barry Wood, Paul Angus and Cllr Colin Clarke in the Council Chamber.

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Victoria and the finalists of the 2016 Cherwell Democracy Challenge.

 

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP SELECTS CHRISTMAS CARD WINNING DESIGN

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North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis has chosen the winner of her Christmas Card competition after receiving hundreds of designs from primary school children across her constituency.

Earlier this year, Victoria wrote to the head teachers of all the primary schools in North Oxfordshire to ask them to take part in her annual Christmas card competition. Pupils were encouraged to use this year’s theme – the nativity star – as their inspiration.

Victoria received hundreds of creative designs from young people of all ages from schools including Queensway, Dashwood and Christopher Rawlins.  After much deliberation, she chose Lucy England’s design, age 6, from Fritwell Primary School. Her design included a Christmas tree, nativity star and a drawing of the Houses of Parliament. It will be used as the main picture on Victoria’s 2016 Christmas card, which have been printed by Banbury Litho. As part of her prize, Lucy has been invited to visit the House of Commons with her family for a tour and tea with Victoria.

Ethan Osborne, Jaya Trivedi (pupils at Bure Park Primary School in Bicester) and Layla Newman (also of Fritwell Primary School) were selected as runners up. They received House of Commons prizes and will have their designs printed on the back of Victoria’s Christmas Card.

On Thursday 10 November, Victoria popped along to Fritwell School to meet Lucy and congratulate her on winning the competition.

Victoria said, “I was really pleased to receive so many entries to my annual Christmas Card competition. The children’s designs were all brilliant; there were so many to choose from. I ended up selecting Lucy’s design as the winner because I really liked how she had managed to make the Houses of Parliament look Christmassy, with all the stars and the Christmas tree. It was lovely to meet her to congratulate her in person and I am looking forward to welcoming her and her family to the Houses of Parliament in the New Year.”

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This year’s winning Christmas card design, by Lucy England (age 6).

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP OPENS NEW ECO-CLASSROOM AT HARRIERS BANBURY ACADEMY

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On Thursday 10 November, Victoria Prentis MP officially opened Harriers Banbury Academy’s new Forest School Den.

Forest School is a cross-curricular, engaging and pupil-led initiative that allows children of all ages to discover more about their natural environment. It offers pupils the opportunity to develop their self-esteem and confidence through hands-on learning.

The Forest School Den is a new eco-classroom which will provide a valuable outdoor learning resource to complement the Forest School, combining project-based digital learning, and further preparing pupils for the world of work. The Den is an economical wooden structure, fusing outdoor learning with project-based digital learning. Not only will the new Den provide a unique learning space for the pupils, it will also provide an alternative venue for families, parents and the wider community.

Following the opening, Victoria commented: “It was an honour to open the new eco-classroom at Harriers Banbury Academy. The Forest Den is an exciting new resource for the children to learn more about the natural world. Hands-on experiences are so important for young people, and I am in no doubt that the Den will enhance the pupils’ curiosity, creativity and knowledge.”

Alex Pearson, Executive Principal at Harriers Banbury Academy, said: “At Harriers, we have three core values: purpose, self-worth and engagement. We are always looking for ways to stimulate our pupils’ curiosity and creativity, while providing purposeful learning, fun and engagement. Outdoor learning and our new Forest School Den provide our pupils and teachers with exciting opportunities to learn in different and engaging ways, mixing modern technology with the great outdoors!”

NORTH OXFORDSHIRE’S CHILDREN ENJOY SHAKESPEARE WORKSHOP AT BROUGHTON CASTLE

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On Friday 4 November, more than eighty of North Oxfordshire’s Year Sevens and their teachers had the unique opportunity of attending a workshop run by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the beautiful setting of Broughton Castle, near Banbury. The event was organised by Victoria Prentis MP to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.

The students spent two hours looking at one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Hamlet, under the expert tuition of some of the RSC’s most celebrated actors. Vigorous warm up exercises were followed by an in-depth analysis of some of the key moments from the text, and the children were able to explore the actors’ methods and Shakespeare’s writing. The Great Hall in Broughton Castle helped the play come to life and gave the workshop an unforgettable atmosphere.

Speaking after the event, Victoria Prentis MP said: “It was wonderful to see North Oxfordshire’s schoolchildren really immersing themselves in the world of Shakespeare. I am hugely grateful to the Fiennes family and all the team at Broughton for letting us use their castle. 

“The RSC were world class and had all the pupils concentrating and enjoying Shakespeare.  I really hope that this will become an annual event. I know that it was an experience that all the children, and teachers, will remember for a long time to come. I’m also confident that the children will go back to school so enthused by Shakespeare that they in turn will encourage their friends to try the plays.”

The Broughton Castle Shakespeare Workshop was kindly supported by the Cherwell District Council and opened by Victoria Prentis MP and Chairman of the Council, Cllr Chris Heath.

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North Oxfordshire pupils with actors from the RSC in the Great Hall of Broughton Castle.

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Victoria Prentis MP and Chairman of Cherwell District Council, Cllr Chris Heath, who opened the event.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP SUPPORTS MACMILLAN’S COFFEE MORNING

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Victoria showed her support for Macmillan and helped to raise awareness of the issues faced by people affected by cancer on Wednesday by attending a World’s Biggest Coffee Morning event in Parliament.

More than 220,000 coffee morning events were held around the UK to raise money for Macmillan on and around 30th September and Victoria supported local fundraising events held in North Oxfordshire. Following the success of the national event Macmillan hosted a coffee morning in the House of Commons where MPs had the opportunity to hear about the challenges facing people living with and beyond cancer and to learn more about some of the services that Macmillan provides.

Following the House of Commons event, Victoria commented: “Macmillan’s coffee morning is a fantastic annual event and I was really glad to have the opportunity to attend one in parliament and two in my constituency. It was a great way to hear more about the support that Macmillan offers directly to people affected by cancer. With the number of people living with cancer increasing, this event is an important opportunity to not only raise funds for a worthy cause, but to bring people together to talk about an issue that will become more urgent in the future.”

Having raised £27million in 2015 and over £138million to date, the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is the original and most successful charity fundraising event of its sort. The idea remains simple: get together with friends, colleagues or neighbours to hold a coffee morning and raise money for Macmillan, with every donation helping to ensure that no one faces cancer alone. For more information visit http://coffee.macmillan.org.uk/Home.aspx#.VClo2pRdVsE.

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Victoria at the Macmillan Parliamentary Coffee Morning

NORTH OXFORDSHIRE MP PRESENTS TEN MINUTE RULE BILL ON THE HORTON

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On Tuesday 25 October, North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis, presented her first Ten Minute Rule Motion to the House on the subject of the Horton General Hospital. The National Health Service Provision (Local Consultation) Bill was a direct response to events over the summer at the hospital, which saw the downgrade of the maternity unit to a midwife-only service with no public consultation.

During her speech, Victoria voiced her concerns about the way in which the decision was taken and emphasised the need for public consultation whenever there is a change to NHS services, even when it is in response to an emergency situation. Presenting her Bill to the Commons, Victoria said in the Chamber:

Madam Deputy Speaker, I was a civil servant for 17 years, and on the whole I believe the best of our public servants. I feel let down by the way we have been treated this summer, by the lack of good management, transparency or evidence-based decision-making.  I am concerned that without change to the law, other areas may also suffer as we have…..

“…This Bill would increase accountability of local Trusts and commissioning authorities. Where major changes to service provision are proposed, clinical groups and medical consortiums are not a replacement for public consultation. Doctor may know best, but only when he has listened to the patient.   Local decision making can work, but only with democratic accountability.”

Speaking after presenting her Bill, Victoria said: “I was really pleased to be able to speak at some length about the suspension of our consultant-delivered maternity service at the Horton. It provided an opportunity for me to voice the concerns of my constituents. I feel strongly that the public must be consulted whenever a service change is proposed, regardless of the circumstances surrounding any decision. My Bill called for exactly that; I was particularly grateful for the cross-party support from colleagues, including former Leader of the Opposition the Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP”.

You can read the full text of Victoria’s speech below:

Mr Speaker, I beg to move that leave be given for me to bring in a Bill to make provision about mandatory local consultation in relation to changes in services proposed by NHS Trusts and healthcare commissioning authorities; and for connected purposes.

This Bill is the result of our experience in Oxfordshire this summer; during which the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust suspended consultant-led maternity services at our local general hospital with no warning and no consultation.

The Horton General Hospital was a gift to the people of Banbury in 1872. It serves a community of around 150,000 people, though this number is growing by the day as a large number of new houses are being built. The Horton General’s patients are spread across six Parliamentary constituencies covering a large rural hinterland and some of the most deprived areas in Oxfordshire.  I was born at the Horton and four generations of my family have been treated there.  Like my constituents, I am proud of my local hospital, and feel passionately about keeping it. 

Our unit was fairly small by national standards, with about 1,500 births a year. It was well regarded, both medically and by the families who chose it, but despite this fine reputation, it has been under threat for as long as I can remember. The first speech I made in primary school was about saving maternity at the Horton. The last major threat we faced was in 2008 when my predecessor, and the former Prime Minister and the former member for Daventry, and the passionate Keep the Horton General group fought tooth and nail to save the hospital.

At that time, the matter was referred to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, who looked at the evidence in considerable detail and concluded that:

“There are major concerns over whether such a large unit as that being proposed [at the John Radcliffe] would be (a) safe and (b) sustainable. There are sufficient concerns about ambulance provision and the transfer of very sick babies from Banbury to Oxford to call into question the safety of what is being proposed by the Trust.”

After this, we thought the fight was over for some time. How wrong we were.

On 20th July, I was invited to what seemed a routine meeting with the Trust.  I asked a member of staff to go on my behalf. No other Members of Parliament were asked to attend, nor of course could they have done so on a sitting Wednesday. I was horrified to hear the report: the Trust had failed to recruit sufficient obstetricians, and as a result The Horton would be downgraded as an emergency. There would be no consultation; on 31 August the Trust Board approved this. Three weeks ago obstetricians left, and we became a midwife led unit, or MLU.   

Colleagues know that I am, with good reason, passionate about both maternal and peri-natal safety.  Nevertheless, I accept that for most deliveries, MLUs are the best place to be, particularly as most are located alongside or very near an obstetric unit.   

And that is the nub of our problem: if an emergency arises, or a woman simply changes her mind about having an epidural, our labouring mothers will have to be transferred by ambulance to Oxford. It is around 23 miles. The average time taken in a blue light ambulance from door to door will be between 30 and 45 mins. The traffic is dreadful and unpredictable; many of my constituents, myself included, go to some lengths to avoid driving into Oxford.  NICE guidelines make clear that when an emergency caesarean needs to take place, it must be done within 30 minutes. Once you factor in transfer time, and moving a labouring mother into and out of an ambulance, that will be quite impossible from the Horton.  The worry is of course, that some won’t make it in time. 

Clearly most women will no longer be permitted to deliver in Banbury. In fact, there have been 12 births since the unit became midwife led. Ordinarily there would have been around 90.

Many of the women who will now deliver in Oxford live an hour and a half’s drive from the JR. I worry about these women; about the babies that will be born at the side of the road and about everyone’s experiences of labour. I can barely begin to imagine the situation of women who do not own a car. The journey to Oxford by public transport from many of the villages is virtually impossible.

I have repeatedly asked the Trust to see risk assessments, and have been sent nothing.  My office eventually tracked down some risk assessments on-line, which showed an alarming number of “high risk” factors including transfer time, ambulance provision and the ability of the John Radcliffe to cope with the additional births. I asked for an explanation and have received nothing.

I struggle, without evidence, to accept that patient safety has been fully assessed; the unit should have been staffed by locums and professionals from the Trust’s other sites, while this was done thoroughly. I must also question how it all became an emergency, when I have since been told that the Clinical Research Fellows programme had become increasingly unsustainable over the past eighteen months. Serious concerns have also been raised about whether sufficient and timely efforts were made to recruit. As a new MP, meeting the new Chief Executive, I would have expected this problem to have been flagged. I would have welcomed the chance to try to help solve the problem, as my constituents are now doing; offering discounted housing, school fees, and even free Hook Norton beer to those who apply to be obstetricians.

My constituents are fearful and angry.  We have had a summer of protests. Many local consultants and GPs are against the suspension, and have complained furiously that such an important decision was taken over six weeks during the school holidays. I have considerable sympathy for those who believe this is part of a wider conspiracy to downgrade our local hospital. For many years a vociferous contingent at the Trust have wanted to centralise services in Oxford, and use our site for more outpatient services. One of the options proposed in the forthcoming Sustainability and Transformation Plan is for exactly that, with maternity services at the Horton becoming midwife-led. We fear the situation this summer has been engineered in order to make this a fait accompli.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I was a civil servant for 17 years, and on the whole I believe the best of our public servants. I feel let down by the way we have been treated this summer, by the lack of good management, transparency or evidence-based decision-making.  I am concerned that without change to the law, other areas may also suffer as we have.

The Trust holds all the cards. Only it has the ability to manipulate the number of births each centre receives. We have no control over recruitment; only they have the power to make the posts attractive. They have all the evidence, and carry out all risk assessments.  The Clinical Commissioning Group has been notable by their silence.

This Bill would increase accountability of local Trusts and commissioning authorities. Where major changes to service provision are proposed, clinical groups and medical consortiums are not a replacement for public consultation. Doctor may know best, but only when he has listened to the patient.   Local decision making can work, but only with democratic accountability.

We in North Oxfordshire and the surrounding area remain hopeful that our unit will reopen next year, when sufficient obstetricians have been recruited.   In the meantime, our mothers and babies suffer.”

Victoria Prentis MP (25 October 2016)

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP REMINDS ALL THOSE AT RISK OF FLU IN NORTH OXFORDSHIRE TO GET THEIR FLU VACCINATION THIS WINTER

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Victoria Prentis MP today attended Westminster Flu Day, a flu vaccine clinic held in the House of Commons, to encourage her constituents to get this season’s flu vaccine in line with Government recommendations.

Parliamentarians who were not eligible for a free seasonal flu vaccine on the NHS made a £10 donation to the Carers Trust. £10 is equivalent to the cost of a private vaccination.

54% of at-risk people and 27% of people over the age of 65 in the Oxfordshire area were not vaccinated against flu last year, even though the consequences of not having a flu vaccine can be serious. This compares to around 55% nationally of at-risk patients and 30% of people over the age of 65.

People in a risk group, such as pregnant women, people who are immunosuppressed and people with an underlying health condition such as liver disease and heart disease, are at significantly increased risk of dying as a result of flu. Every year, an estimated 12,000 people die from seasonal influenza in England and Wales. Flu is the most frequent cause of death in pregnancy and very occasionally a child may die from flu.

Victoria Prentis MP said “The best way to help protect yourself against the flu is to get the flu vaccine. I would urge everyone who is entitled to a free flu vaccine to go and visit their GP or pharmacist.”

Nicola Blackwood MP, Public Health Minister added: “Make sure you get your flu jab this winter. People often get the flu in winter and it can lead to more serious illnesses and even death, so it is good to protect yourself”.

Westminster Flu Day is an established event in the Parliamentary calendar. It is sponsored by the ABPI Vaccine Group in partnership with the Royal College of Nursing and Carers Trust and with the support of the Department of Health and Public Health England.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP VISITS BICESTER GREEN

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As part of ‘Social Saturday’, a nationwide initiative, Victoria Prentis MP was kindly invited by the Local Enterprise Partnership Business Support programme to visit Bicester Green, a local social enterprise in North Oxfordshire.

Social Saturday was held on 15 October 2016 and is an annual, UK-wide day of activity to celebrate and raise awareness of British social enterprise. Social enterprises include businesses that trade for a social or environment purpose, reinvesting their profits for the good of the local community.  There are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing a million people, and together they contribute £24 billion to the economy.

Bicester Green is a social enterprise known for sustainability in the local community. It operates by repairing items that are destined for landfill, including bicycles, furniture and electrical items. Bicester Green hosts the Cycle for Bicester bike loan programme and has set up series of talks and demonstrations.

During her visit, Victoria discussed the work of Bicester Green and even tried her hand at using a power tool.

Following the visit, Victoria commented: “I was delighted to be asked to visit Bicester Green to see first-hand what they are doing. Social enterprises are a wonderful addition to our economy and help to tackle a range of local social and environmental problems. Bicester Green are certainly doing just that.  Through recycling and repairing valuable products, they are helping to regenerate the local community, reducing landfill and carbon emissions.”

For more information on how to get involved in the work of Bicester Green, please visit http://www.bicestergreen.org.uk/.

vp-at-bicester-green-141016-1Victoria using a power tool at Bicester Green (photo by Jeff Willmore).

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP RAISES THE HORTON GENERAL HOSPITAL AND BABY LOSS AWARENESS WEEK IN PARLIAMENT

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Victoria Prentis MP, a long-time campaigner for maternal safety and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Baby Loss, made two important contributions to Parliamentary debates in the first week back after the conference recess. On both occasions, Victoria focused on the challenges that Banbury is facing following the temporary downgrade of its maternity unit at the Horton General Hospital.

On Wednesday 12 October, Victoria asked the Prime Minister if she shared her sadness that the majority of Banbury’s babies would no longer be born in the Horton General Hospital following the downgrade. Victoria’s question was followed by her fellow MP and co-chair of the APPG on Baby Loss, Will Quince, who asked about bereavement care for grieving parents. The Prime Minister stated that “what matters is a safe maternity service for mother and baby”, and that “ the best possible bereavement care [must] be given to parents at this tragic moment in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable.”

The following day, Victoria took part in a Backbench Business Debate on Baby Loss, organised by Antoinette Sandbach and Will Quince. It was an emotional and powerful debate from MPs, many of whom who were there not as politicians, but as bereaved parents. Party politics was put aside as they shared their own stories, those of their constituents, and debated how to reduce baby loss in the UK and provide better care for parents. Victoria spoke about her own experience and her worries for Banbury’s families following the decision to downgrade maternity services at the Horton General Hospital. She took the opportunity to explain to the House her concern that babies would be born on the road on the way to hospital, and her fear that mothers and babies would not be able to access urgent and essential medical care when they need it most.

Victoria Prentis MP said: “It has been an emotional week for everyone involved, but it is all worth it if we can raise greater awareness of the devastating experience of losing a baby. Aside from making representations in the Chamber, we were also able to hold a reception and a memorial service for bereaved parents and the charities who do so much to help people through their darkest days.

Baby Loss Awareness Week is such an important occasion. I really hope that we can continue to break the silence on this often under-reported issue, and I thank all of those who were brave enough to tell their stories this week. It was an honour to stand beside my colleagues and to represent the many constituents who share my very real fear over the changes to our much-loved and essential maternity unit at the Horton General Hospital. I can only hope that sharing my own experience will make a difference, and go some way towards making sure that none of my constituents will have to go through what I did.”

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