Today, I challenged Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Community Health and Care, David Mowat MP, about the poor state of primary care in our part of Essex. Watch the full debate below.
Local MP Douglas Carswell will this week ask ministers about the poor state of general practice provision in Clacton.
In a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday afternoon, Douglas will demand that the Department of Health takes urgent action to address the shortage of GPs and surgeries in the constituency.
Some local surgeries took the decision to stop adding new patients to their books over the last two years. The issue could be compounded with the potential closure of Clacton Hospital's Minor Injuries Unit.
Before the debate, Douglas made clear:
"All too often, folk in Clacton simply cannot access a GP near to them.
"I'll be making clear to ministers that people must be able to access a GP.
"It creates a virtuous circle: more patients seen at surgeries means less of a need to visit Colchester A&E. In turn, those who need emergency care have better access to it.
"For too long, our part of Essex has been overlooked. It's time health ministers responded to local needs, rather than offering the usual platitudes."
Local MP Douglas Carswell has written to both Tendring District Council and Essex police asking that action be taken to reduce public drunkenness in the centre of Clacton.
A small number of problem drinkers often congregate over the course of the day, creating an unpleasant atmosphere for local residents and those visiting.
"With the warmer weather on the way, we need to take steps so that a small minority don't make our town centre unattractive for the majority", Douglas said.
"A lot of local residents, particularly families have contacted me because they feel that there are drunks in public places. I think steps need to be taken now to deal with it.
"There are no easy answers, but I would like to see the police use what powers they have to take alcohol away from people drinking in controlled zones."
Clacton MP Douglas Carswell will next week support efforts to have a national public holiday to celebrate the Queen's Sapphire Jubilee.
The 6th February marked 65 years since Her Majesty acceded to the throne. Douglas will be co-sponsor of a Bill from Andrew Rosindell, which seeks to "establish a framework to ensure that the United Kingdom, its overseas territories and Crown dependencies appropriately commemorate this occasion."
Ahead of the Bill, to be formally introduced next Tuesday, Douglas said:
"I think this is a wonderful idea, and I'm very happy to lend my support.
"The Queen has been a brilliant figure in Britain and the Commonwealth throughout her lifetime, and this milestone is all the more reason to celebrate her achievements."
Local MP Douglas Carswell is 100% behind efforts to safeguard Clacton Hospital's Minor Injuries Unit.
Douglas had discussions with NHS bosses, making clear that closure was unacceptable.
"Every day, on average 70 local residents walk into the Minor Injuries Unit. Many are in pain or have had accidents", he said.
"If the Minor Injuries Unit wasn't there, people would have to go to Colchester Hospital and not be seen locally.
"I've spoken very directly to those running the consultation. I'm confident that we can win this fight. We can't be certain, but am confident this battle will be won."
Douglas Carswell has called on the government to ensure that GP surgeries are able to keep doctors in areas with an older population.
In a written question to the junior health minister, David Mowat, Douglas asked whether the government had drawn up a strategy.
In response, the minister said:
"The Department does not have a specific policy on the retention of general practitioner practices in areas with an elderly demographic" but that the Department of Health was also "investing £40 million over four years targeted at supporting practice resilience."
North East Essex CCG is currently consulting on whether to close the Minor Injuries Unit at Clacton Hospital.
Douglas went to say that:
"For many reasons, older folk struggle to make appointments that are far from their home. GP surgeries need to be properly staffed to handle the needs of elderly patients.
"The closure of Clacton's Minor Injuries Unit might mean even more pressure on primary care providers.
"Sadly, many of the problems which I made clear to Jeremy Hunt some years ago have now come to pass."
Local MP Douglas Carswell has written to local NHS bosses explaining why the Minor Injuries Unit at Clacton hospital must be kept open.
"I am 100 percent against any attempt to close the Minor Injuries Unit" he said.
"Local services are being salami sliced. If Clacton hospital loses the Minor Injuries Unit, people needing treatment – often after an accident or trauma – will have to travel to Colchester. That can't be right".
"Last year they wanted to shut Peter Bruff ward and relocate certain mental health services. Now it's the Minor Injuries Unit they want to relocate. Its almost as if NHS bosses in Colchester are rearranging local services to do what suits them, not people in Clacton".
"Local people have a right to expect a local hospital, capable of treating them or their loved ones in the event of an accident. Its not too much to ask, surely?"
The NHS's own statistics show that there is a clear local need for this service in Clacton, with thousands of patients being treated at the Unit. One in four of those attending the Minor Injuries Unit do so in pain or with injuries after an accident.
Douglas added "This proposal makes no sense. If the Unit is shut, it will mean more pressure on the A&E services in Colchester, where there is already a bottle neck."
"Our local NHS in our part of Essex is drifting towards a crisis – and this will only make things worse".
"Already many local people, who have paid into the system, find they are unable to get to see a GP. Which means more people turn up at A&E, putting pressure on emergency responses there. Now they are proposing something that will add to the pressure".
Douglas has already written to the local North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group to request a face to face meeting. He has also written to the health minister, Jeremy Hunt, flagging up concerns about the state of the local NHS, and how these ill considered proposals will make things worse, and tabled a series of questions about the proposal in Parliament.
"Local people are fed up with remote officials making decisions to down grade local services. I am determined to challenge them – and make NHS bosses see some sense".
Local MP Douglas Carswell has applauded the way local police, Tendring council and other agencies and volunteers responded to the flood alert last week.
"This is the second time in three years that it has been necessary to evacuate Brooklands and parts of Jaywick" said Douglas. "Mercifully the sea did not breach the sea wall – but if it had, the consequences could have been catastrophic".
"Throughout the flood alert, I kept in touch with Tendring council and with Essex police, who together did a superb job. Well done to them, and to some of the local volunteers who helped out".
"Well done too to all those local residents affected by the evacuation, who supported each other".
"I have written to both Russ Cole and Ian Davidson to say what a great job their team did. It was an example of public service at its best".
Douglas Carswell visited Clacton-on-Sea Delivery Office to thank staff for their hard work over the Christmas period.
Introduced by Delivery Office Manager Scott McInnes, Douglas met local postmen and women, and thanked them personally for making sure Clacton residents receive their Christmas cards and presents.
Mr. Carswell said: “We owe a special debt of gratitude to the Royal Mail at Christmas. Thank you for all the hard work you do, especially at this time of year. I wish local postmen, and everyone in Clacton, a very merry Christmas.”
Local MP Douglas Carswell is leading efforts to reduce traffic on Thorpe-le-Soken High Street.
Acting on concerns raised by Thorpe residents, Douglas contacted the Essex Highways team directly to ask for a rethink of the High Street's layout. Together with representatives of both Essex County Council and Tendring District Council, Douglas visited the High Street to explore possible solutions.
Douglas has also written to local residents, enclosing a survey asking for their views on the issue.
"It's important no changes are made that make things worse", Douglas commented. "Input from local residents is vital to ensure we find the best possible solution."