Last week was a week of firsts; I made my ‘Maiden Speech’ in Parliament and I also made my first vote. I supported lifting the one per cent cap on annual pay rises for public sector workers. However, despite Labour’s amendment, the DUP and Conservatives voted to keep the pay cap by 323 to 309.
Public sector pay is an important issue in High Peak. Around 6,500 High Peak residents work in our public services. One told me, “As a public-sector worker, years of austerity now mean I am running at a 14% pay cut and counting... I just need a chance here by keeping up with inflation.”
Nurses, teachers, police, firefighters and support staff for our services feel the same, and many ofour public services are facing staff shortages.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council released figures this week, showing there are now more nurses and midwives leaving the profession than joining it.
Since last week’s vote, around 50 Conservative MPs, including several of Theresa May’s Cabinet, now say they believe the pay cap should be abolished.
The cost of covering staff shortages is often more than the cost of raising pay, so the policy is economically damaging as well as morally indefensible. I will continue to press for ending the pay cap as soon as possible.
A decision will soon be made on the proposed cuts to Spencer and Fenton wards at Cavendish Hospital.
Since I was elected, I have met staff and patients on the wards to see for myself the caring and valuable service provided there. I have met with the Derbyshire NHS Trust who run the Cavendish and next week I will meet the Clinical Commissioning Group responsible for the decision.
Whilst I fully support the Group’s aim of providing services for more sufferers of dementia within their own homes, I have made it clear that it is important that those patients who do require hospital care must not travel an unreasonable distance.
I know from caring for my own elderly relatives that dementia patients need to keep a strong relationship with those who care for them at home and regular visits are vital.
It is not only heart-breaking for families who cannot visit their relative, but it becomes almost impossible for patients to return home and the taxpayer pays more in the long run.
Taking human needs into account when making policy is not only the morally right thing to do, but it is usually the most sensible financially as well. I will continue to argue for common sense and economic sense about the pay cap and local hospital services.