Rt Hon Stephen McPartland MP
Working hard for you
in Stevenage, Knebworth, Codicote, Datchworth and Aston

Cancer patients in Stevenage will get access to drugs that they are currently denied under Labour if the Conservatives win the general election, Stephen McPartland announced this week.

Under the bold new plans, the NHS would save £200 million because Conservatives will stop Labour’s jobs tax on employers. This NHS saving would be used to pay for drugs which have been blocked by the Government’s quango, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). In East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust which employs 5843 staff, the cost of Labour’s increase in Employers’ National Insurance contributions – the jobs tax – is estimated to be £876,450.

•    The Labour Government has failed to provide patients with the cancer drugs they need – drugs which are widely available in Europe. Britain has more cancer deaths per head than Buglaria. The current system lets Ministers off the hook. They blame bad decisions on unaccountable bureaucrats in NICE, the agency which approves drugs for the NHS.
•    Under the Conservative blueprint, the money that would have been eaten up by Labour’s jobs tax would go straight to a new Cancer Drugs Fund. No cancer patient will be refused access to drugs that have been licensed since 2005 if their doctors say they need them.
•    Conservatives will also change the way that drug companies are paid for NHS medicines. Effective treatments for all conditions, not just cancer, would become available on the NHS, with drug providers paid according to the value of their new treatments.

Stephen said:
“There is a clear choice at this election: Labour and their jobs tax that will take £200 million out of the NHS budget; or the Conservatives who will stop the jobs tax and use the savings in the NHS budget to create a Cancer Drugs Fund.

“The NHS is our number one priority. We are committed to helping our NHS become truly world-class. Giving Stevenage’s patients access to cancer drugs widely available in Europe is a key part of our plan for change and making the NHS even better.”

Stephen McPartland was priviledged earlier this week to have a full tour of the testing laboratories of FIRA, the Furniture Indsustry Research Association, as well as meeting a range of the staff on site.  “The work of FIRA is impressive and worthy of its leading international reputation”, said Stephen, “It is particularly good to see the number of local people employed, in a wide range of different and interesting roles.”

FIRA carries out essential work such as testing the fire safety of furnishing to ensure compliance with standards  and also assists with specific topics of relevance to the furniture industry.  “I am encouraged that the level of activity has been steady recently”, commented Stephen, “and feel that a greaterfocus on supporting UK manufacturers to export their goods, as well as increasing efficiencies in the supply chain will be beneficial to growth.”

FIRA is investing in their facilities on Maxwell Road to enable a continued provision of leading-edge advice and services, to clients, members and the general public.  As well as testing products, FIRA’s activities also include certification of products, an international consultancy business, an after-sales service via a national network of technicians and they host therole of the Furntiture Ombudsman.  “It is a good example of self-regulation of an industry working well” noted Stephen.

Stephen McPartland visited a local Sure Start Centre recently and saw first-hand the hard work of Sure Start staff and management in supporting families in the Stevenage community.  Stephen commented “I can assure you that Sure Start Children’s Centres play a critical role in our vision.  As David Cameron said recently, the Conservatives are absolutely committed to Sure Start and helping its staff to do more for families.”

The Conservatives will strengthen Sure Start by recruiting thousands of additional health visitors and introducing a universal Sure Start Health Visitor service - improving the support Sure Start is able to provide to families. This will cost £200 million per year and will be paid for using money the Government has set aside for more Sure Start outreach workers and from the Department of Health, the budget of which the Conservatives have promised to increase in real terms every year. Labour on the other hand revealed in the recent Budget plans to make up to £150m of “efficiencies” in the Sure Start budget.

Currently, fewer than one in five Sure Start Children's Centres has a formal agreement with their local Primary Care trust to join together to provide the services families need. Conservative plans will change that, and put health back at the heart of Sure Start as it was when the programme was originally launched. Sure Start Health Visitors, working with outreach and other workers, will also help improve the effectiveness of support given to the most vulnerable families.

False rumours from Labour about Conservative plans have caused real anxiety and concern amongst parents, and risked distracting attention from the important task of improving Sure Start.  The Conservatives are quite clear: there are no plans to close any Children’s Centres. Rather, a stronger Sure Start is at the heart of delivering the Conservative’s vision of Britain as the most family friendly country in Europe.

Stephen McPartland was delighted to visit the MBDA site in Gunnels Wood Road. “I was pleased to be able to meet a number of the young people on the Business Trainee and Engineering Apprenticeship schemes some of whom were previously at school in Stevenage”,

Stephen added, “MBDA is an excellent example of the benefits of an apprentice scheme, but places on such schemes are very few in number.  Labour have failed on skills. There are too many young people that are not in any kind of education, employment or training (NEET), and the number of people starting apprenticeships is falling fast. A Conservative government will provide a massive expansion in the provision of apprenticeships and training places and make it easier for companies to run apprenticeships.  Complementary to this will be more college places and  better careers advice including a trained careers adviser in every secondary school and college.”

MBDA is an important employer, with a long history in Stevenage, with much of the design and development work being undertaken here.  It has a long-term partnering arrangement with the UK MoD for the development and supply of new complex weapons to the UK Armed Forces. MBDA’s position as a global player is a testament to the innovative approach and enthusiasm of its staff, and through the training, apprenticeship and mentoring schemes, these values are being passed on to the next generation of young people.

Stephen McPartland visited Woodlands View care home in Poplars this week and heard from residents and staff.  More than 75% of the places are funded by the NHS, with separate facilities provided for dementia and nursing care.

“The work of the staff here is vital in providing the residents with a home from home”, said Stephen, “Referral to care homes is often from hospital and the Conservatives at Herts County Council are leading the way in more joined up health care so that people are moved out of hospitals faster and into care homes.  This is much better for individuals who receive the specialisied care they need and more effective for the NHS, who can focus on treating medical conditions.”

A Conservative government would go further and spread the NHS tariff so that funding follows patients’ choices.  “We will strengthen the role of GPs by allowing them to hold patients’ budgets and to commission care on their behalf.  For those with a chronic illness or long-term condition we will combine the health and social care funding so individuals can have provision tailored to their needs.”

Astrium hosted a walk-about visit for Stephen McPartland at its Gunnels Wood Road site last week, following earlier visits to the company.  “I was delighted to be able to meet a number of the apprentices and hear what their work and training involves”, said Stephen, “as well as several more senior staff involved in a number of different on-going projects”.

Astrium is a major employer in Stevenage, focused primarily on satellite technology, with a presence in the town stretching back many years. The company is engaged with the development of broader application of satellite technology for commercial uses as well as military and security-related, and demonstrates through a variety of different programmes the benefit from building such a deep expertise”

“Some of these applications are really exciting”, said Stephen, “and there will no doubt be more to come in the future.  I feel the Forest Monitoring project is particularly important as it will provide a means of early warning of de-forestation and logging activity within the rain forests.  It is also an excellent example of the opportunity for exports, supplying the relevant foreign governments.  Targeted aid for forest monitoring systems may also be appropriate provided commitments are made for enforcement measures to tackle the de-forestation by acting on the data provided.”

Stephen McPartland visited a housing project in Stevenage that provides direct help to adults with mental health problems by offering one-bedroom flats on a tenancy basis, with staff available 24 hours a day to provide support as needed.  The team leader commented to Stephen, “No two days are the same.  Sometimes we help tenants deal with paperwork to access local services, at other times it can be a listening ear over a cup of tea.”

The flats are run by the Hightown Praetorian & Churches Housing Association, based in Hertfordshire, who provide a range of social housing and other accommodation, supporting aspiring tenants to own their homes as well as offering more specialist accommodation and care homes. As part of a wider group of housing associations, East 7, they are working to improve the provision of affordable housing and services for people in the region.
The CEO of the association, David Bogle, hosted the visit to the Oakley Road site, together with John Cross who is the current Chairman of East 7.  The primary aim of the scheme is to accommodate referred adults, help them gain independence and take back control of their lives, and finally assist them in finding permanent accommodation.

The cost of much of the provision of the affordable housing and services is met from a variety of different public sector sources. Under Labour the bureaucracy is out of control, leading to money being wasted, unnecessary staff time taken up in seeking funding and uncertainties arising about whether budgets will be available in the future.

Stephen said, “If the Conservatives are elected we will look to reduce this bureacratic waste so we can improve support for local people and provide them with first rate services.”

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage performed a turf-cutting ceremony to mark the commencement of a new care home for older people in Stevenage. The new home is a partnership project between Hertfordshire County Council and Quantum Care, and will replace the current Newhaven care home in Drakes Drive. It will be opening in the summer of 2012, and has been designed to care for older people with a variety of short and long term care needs. It will have specially designed living spaces for people with dementia, as well as for those with physical disabilities.

Stephen McPartland said, “I am delighted to see this very real result from the framework the new government is providing to encourage investment in our health services. Quantum Care has a track record of responding and I particularly welcome the additional facilities for dementia sufferers, whose cause I have taken up many times in Parliament as it is important we tackle both the social and medical effects of this disease.”

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