We've come a long way in delivering a fairer share of healthcare for Dover and Deal.
After hard-fought community campaigns, we got the new £24 million Dover hospital built – and the future of Deal hospital has been secured.
Twice as many clinics are now operating at Buckland than in 2015. Deal Hospital staff numbers are up a fifth. Meanwhile, around £200 million is going towards upgrading East Kent's A&E departments.
We're getting more healthcare provided locally. Yet I know there is much more to do.
For many years, I have been urging health chiefs to step up efforts to bring more GPs to our corner of Kent. And I've been doing what I can in Parliament to help.
We fought a long and hard battle for a new £30 million East Kent medical school, so more doctors and nurses can be trained locally. I asked other Kent MPs to join in the fight. And earlier this year it was finally confirmed that our bid had been successful. This victory will make a massive difference in the longer term. Yet it's clear that more needs to be done right now to bring more GPs to our area.
This issue has been brought into sharp focus by Eastry Surgery's proposals to close and move all appointments to Sandwich. The doctors would like to keep the practice running – yet despite their best efforts, they have not been able to recruit any more GPs.
Residents are understandably concerned. The two public meetings held to discuss the plans were packed. People are particularly worried about public transport and parking. The GPs have listened and tell me they are taking action to address these concerns. Yet it's clear this problem would never have arisen had we been able to bring more doctors to Dover and Deal. We simply must do better.
That's why I've called for Kent County Council's Health Overview Scrutiny Committee to launch an inquiry into GP recruitment issues in South Kent. I've asked the Committee to examine what South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is doing to boost the number of doctors locally – and to support the hard-working GPs we already have.
This is a problem that needs addressing fast. The CCG have opened a new £2.3 million GP hub at Buckland and Deal hospitals, where doctors can work seven days a week so more people can be treated locally. Yet to make this work properly, we need more GPs.
We must get better at attracting doctors to South Kent – and at training GPs locally too. This is exactly what the £20 billion funding boost for the NHS announced in June must go towards – not more pay for middle managers and bureaucrats.
In Dover and Deal we are lucky to have excellent GPs who work long hours and care deeply about their community. Doctors who put patients first. I am determined to do all I can to support them.
Here you can read about local news matters and what I've been up to. You can make comments too. I'd welcome your feedback, so please do feel free to comment!