Wednesday, 31 March 2010

HSBC: Not Aylesford’s “Local Bank”

The bakery and deli are long gone. The Post Office went last year. Now Aylesford Village is about to see the closure of its HSBC branch much to the anger and disappointment of local residents. Already village business owners and residents, and those who travel from Eccles, Burham and Wouldham villages to use the branch, have protested outside the branch and got petitons signed. Last week I and other councillors from the Parishes and Borough wrote to the Chief Executive of HSBC urging him to reconsider closing the branch. The text of the letter is as follows:

“As the prospective Conservative MP for Chatham & Aylesford and the local councillors representing the communities most affected, we are very disappointed to learn that HSBC has decided to close its Aylesford Village branch.

The branch services a wide area including Aylesford itself, the surrounding remote villages of
Wouldham, Eccles and Burham and the Royal British Legion Village, a residential area run by the
legion for Second World War veterans and other ex-Armed Forces personnel. With no other bank branch nearby, it goes without saying that HSBC currently provides a vital service to residents and businesses in the local area and its closure will see a further decline in local village
life, an outcome that seems contrary to your big budget marketing campaign as the “local bank”.

We therefore urge you to reconsider your decision to close the Aylesford Village branch as soon as possible so that residents and businesses can continue with their financial matters without disruption”.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Cleaning up Millennium Green

I enjoyed my hour long litter picking session yesterday on Millennium Green with Cllr Tashi Bhutia, local residents and the Community Payback team. Is always very satisfying to see an area transformed thanks to a little effort! Funniest moment of the morning was seeing Tashi stopping some local lads using the litter pickers to have sword fights with and instead putting them in high viz jackets, rubber gloves and persuading them to help out. Not sure how long they stayed but they certainly got more than they bargained for when taking on the ex-Gurkha…

Friday, 26 March 2010

Impressed and inspired

I have been really impressed by two visits this week.

The first was the Polypipe Terrain site in Larkfield. Polypipe are the only major plastic piping systems manufacturer that is British owned and based, with over two-thirds of its £280m turnover generated on home turf. In the UK, Polypipe has different divisions for each market and Polypipe Terrain recently won the above ground soil and waste plastic drainage on each of the five major Olympic projects. They have written orders for the Olympic Stadium, Velodrome and Athletes Village, a verbal order for the Aquatics Centre, and are firmly specified on the Media and International Broadcasting Centres, and expect written orders on these remaining projects. Amazing – and all made in the factory off New Hythe Lane! I got to see the process of a pipe being made from its constituent parts to being wrapped and ready for shipping. Plus I also got to see (and play in) the training centre where you can witness the piping system of a house. I found the near 2 hours I was on site fascinating and with conversation ranging from sustainability through to apprenticeships it was well worth it.

The second visit was to St John Fisher School in Chatham. The school is sited in one of the most deprived wards in Europe and faces enormous challenges as a consequence. However, amongst the many people I met, I had a class with the School Council today. There were two reps from each year group and boy did they surprise me with their questions and knowledge of the big wide world. We talked about Afghanistan, immigration, education, prisons…all sorts. They were informed, opinionated and articulate – and not just the older students, these were the first and second year students too. I actually took a real shine to them and the chair and vice-chair were really cool kids who know already what they want from life. The absolute highlight of the day for me though was when one of the younger girls came up to me after and said “I think I might go into politics now” – it was meeting Michael Howard when I was at school that inspired me to get involved in politics; I don’t know how to describe the warm feeling I have thinking I might have inspired someone from the next generation.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Back at Mid Kent College

I was invited back to Mid Kent College to meet with students studying public services and it was a real joy. Firstly it was my first visit to the new campus on Medway Road and my what a huge difference to the old Horsted site. Secondly the students were very interesting in what they had to say about politics and the issues that they were concerned about. And finally I was being shadowed by a very bright local girl who is at the University of East Anglia and thinking about doing her dissertation on young people’s interest and engagement in politics. All in all it was a very fulfilling 90 minutes and has somewhat restored my faith in youth interest in politics.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

A “Good Response”

Someone twittered yesterday why do candidates and activists always say they had a “good response”. They went onto say “it can’t always be true”.

(Me with some of the Ditton team)
Well yesterday, despite the odd shower of rain, we had 3 teams out covering Ditton, Princes Park and Lordswood. I was with the Ditton team in the morning and Princes Park in the afternoon. Between us we knocked on over 1000 properties in so called “traditional” Labour areas and yet we found only 24 Labour supporters compared to 150 brand new Conservative supporters and 120 further probable supporters. I think it would be fair to say that we had a “good response” and I myself was very pleased with the day’s work.
(The morning Lordswood team…raring to go!)
Hats off to the activist, who will remain anonymous, for the funny canvass story of the day. Said activist knocked on a door and a little boy, no more than 5 years old, opens door. Activist says is your mum or dad in to which he yells “muuuuuuuuuuuummmmmm” up the stairs. “What” comes the answer from upstairs. Activist pokes head in door and says “hello I am from the Conservative Party” to which response is “I am in the bath”. Activist replies with “well would you like me to come up?”
My thanks go to those who came from Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells and London to help the Team.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

A week in Maidstone Hospital

A local resident has today emailed me an amazing account of his experience in Maidstone Hospital after his wife was taken ill. I have anonymised it and with permission reprinted it here in its entirety, including his observations for improvement. I am sure you will agree that it is heartfelt, measured and yet a good example of what change we need.

Tuesday (early hours of the morning) -The response to my 999 call was first class. After an hour or so in A & E my wife was transferred from a bed to a chair because of a shortage of beds and was subsequently moved to the Medical Decision Unit. At one point patients on ambulance trolleys were queuing in the corridors!

My wife remained in the chair for 7 to 8 hours before a bed was made available. During this time the portable oxygen cylinder ran out and as there was no replacement she was crammed between to hospital beds to get access to the ‘piped’ oxygen supply. This resembled a corridor the width of a chair and frankly bordered on a shambles. Once settled in bed a drip was rigged up, a length of bandage being threaded through the loop of the plastic container and hooked over the end of the curtain rail – No drip stand!

The following morning (Wednesday) I was asked by a nurse if I could bring in two of the items on my wife’s prescription because they were not available from the hospital pharmacy. When I returned to the hospital I gave the tablets to the nurse who taped them to the Medication Chart. That morning I learned my wife was to have an Ultrasound and when I asked, when, was told ‘when a porter turns up’. At this point I decided to talk to Pals (Patient Advice & Liaison Services) who subsequently put me in touch with the A & E Matron. I explained my concern at the apparent haphazard way things were in the Department. What appeared to an outsider as being chaos was typical of what happens in A & E it seems. Many of the problems stem from the fact that you cannot close the doors to A & E which means unless you can maintain a steady flow of patients through the system and out the other end chaos will ensue. To get patients out the other end, in many cases, you need beds and they are simply not there.

That afternoon the Matron, on checking, assured me the Ultrasound would take place at 10am the following morning – in less than half an hour of making that statement a porter arrived to take my wife to have her scan – perhaps there was a cancellation! After the Ultrasound my wife was seen by a doctor who said it would be about 2 hours before the scan results were available. 43 hours later I was advised the results were NAD (Nothing Abnormal Denoted).

On Wednesday evening my wife was transferred to the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) and later
that night she was transferred to XXX Ward. My daughter visited the hospital at 9.30am on Thursday and when I arrived at approximately 10.15am she was walking the corridors looking for her mother! She had reported to the MAU and told that Mrs X was not in the area. It transpired that no one seemed to know my wife had been transferred to XXX Ward and that in effect she was temporarily lost! A number of staff was involved in tracking down my wife’s whereabouts and soon my daughter and I were reunited with Mrs X.

During the afternoon I asked the nurse dispensing medication whether she had the tablets that had been taped to the Medication Chart. She said no and that she had ordered the necessary medication from the hospital pharmacy. I responded by saying ‘this morning you lost the patient and now you have lost the medication I had specifically been asked to bring in’. Before leaving the hospital that evening I checked for the results of the Ultrasound and they were still not available.

I arrived at the hospital at 9am on Friday and requested to see a doctor who hopefully could give me the results of the Ultrasound. Two and a half hours later I met a doctor who was debating whether he should take responsibility for my wife or whether another chest specialist (who my wife had seen as an out-patient some 9 months previously) should be involved. This doctor said if my wife came under his care he could tell me anything from this point onwards but could not comment on any matters arising before this time. That afternoon my wife had a CT chest and abdomen Scan and I was told the results would not be known for 24 hours. I telephoned the hospital at 12 noon the following Monday and was told the results of the CT Scan were still not known. Five minutes after that call my wife telephoned to say she could come home. I went to collect her and again enquired about the CT Scan results. When I was told they were not known I asked whether it was right for my wife to be discharged without knowing the outcome of the Scan. The nurse said Mrs X had not been discharged and then queried it with her. My wife explained that a doctor, who she had not seen before, had said ‘Would you like to go home’ to which she said ‘yes’. The nurse went away and on returning said yes it was alright to go home and that the CT Scan was NAD!

Between my wife and I we survived the week but it certainly was not without incident! I have total admiration for many of the staff but there are fundamental issues that need to be addressed and in my view a starting point would be to listen to the Matrons etc who I am sure can see ways for improvement and who are doing their best with the resources provided.

It appears to an outsider that:

– The records held on a patient in a variety of handwriting and umpteen pieces of paper could lead to inefficiencies
– It is easy to mislay a patient
– It is easy to lose a patient’s medication
– The hand over procedures from one medical team to another is inadequate.
– Full time Staff dedication is difficult to maintain when Agency staff are paid substantially more for similar work.
– The cost of Agency staff could be diluting the available funding for necessary expenditure in the hospital.

When David Cameron was elected he made it very clear that the NHS was his number one priority. I have always believed in the idea at the heart of our NHS – that healthcare in this country is free and available for everyone whenever they need it. However we have a reform plan to bring about the change that Mr & Mrs X could have done with over the past week, such as increasing patient power, slashing bureaucracy by scrapping tick boxes and targets, and empowering doctors and nurses by focusing on results.

I would like to thank Mr X for emailing me about his experience and I wish his wife well. If you have had a similar experience at a local hospital please do not hesitate to email me.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Capstone Valley petitions

The postcard petitions against house building proposals in Capstone Valley have now stopped coming back to the office so I recently handed over thousands of cards to Medway Council Leader Rodney Chambers who in turn tabled them at last night’s Council meeting. This remains a major concern of local residents around Chatham and it is still be talked about on the doorsteps when I go out canvassing. Hopefully this time the Government will listen to the views of local residents and stop this ridiculous plans going any further forward once and for all.