• Minutes save lives

    A little while ago I blogged about emergency helicopter landings at Queen Alexandra Hospital. Now Portsmouth Hospitals Trust has applied to Portsmouth City Council to remove the restriction on night landings at the hospital.

    Image courtesy of John Ambler

    At the risk of repeating what I said before, I cannot stress how important it is that this ridiculous restriction is removed. We would never dream of saying that standard ambulances could not arrive at the hospital after 6pm or that they were banned from using their lights or sirens.

    Dr Richard Jones, a consultant cardiologist and Chief of Medicine at Queen Alexandra Hospital summed up the case perfectly in The News a couple of weeks ago, he said: ‘Helicopters are mainly used by heart attack patients. When someone’s having a heart attack time is critical so it’s important they get here quickly and sometimes that means needing a helicopter. Changing the restrictions on landings could save lives.’

    I urge everyone to go on to the Portsmouth City Council website and make a comment supporting the application by clicking here.

    If you want to stay up-to-date with the excellent campaign set up by Richard Inskip to support night landings at QA you can join the Facebook group here.

  • The joy of reading

    Portsmouth Lib Dems at the launch of the new library in SouthseaI’ve always been a keen reader. I say always… when I was in my first year at primary school my teacher told my mother that I appeared “to have difficulty learning to read”. I am forever indebted to my mother for refusing to accept this, she spent an entire summer forcing a very reluctant and fidgety four year-old (me) to sit down and learn to read. Since that Summer I’ve never looked back! Reading brought a whole world of discovery to my young mind and without that kick start I would never have got as far as I have today.

    So, perhaps understandably, I am delighted that Portsmouth’s Lib Dem-run council is once again bucking the national trend and, instead of closing them down, is opening a brand new library in Southsea.

    Better still, the new library is so much more than just a ‘stuffy’ collection of books. The old Woolworths building, which had become quite an eyesore in Palmerston Road, has been transformed into a bright, open building with a library, café and council customer service centre. Along with thousands of books for adults and young people, there is free computer and internet access, an IT learning zone, community space for local groups and lots more.

    And, there couldn’t be a better place for it than right in the heart of our local shopping area.

  • Gerald Vernon-Jackson takes on new role

    Big congratulations are due to my ward colleague Gerald Vernon-Jackson who will soon be made leader of Liberal Democrat councillors across England and Wales. Gerald has earned a strong reputation for working hard to protect and improve our public services here in Milton and across Portsmouth.

    Gerald will now be given the job of representing over 4,400 Lib Dem Councillors at the Local Government Association. He will replace Liverpool councillor, Richard Kemp. Gerald said,“Richard Kemp has been incredible for the Lib Dems. I’ll make sure ministers and the party leadership know Lib Dem councillors’ views from across the country.”

    This really is excellent news for Gerald and Portsmouth, as the city is setting the benchmark for other Liberal Democrat Councils across the country. I think it was very telling that only two months ago Portsmouth bucked the national trend, with Portsmouth’s Lib Dems winning nine out of fourteen seats up for election. The message I was getting, talking to people on doorsteps, was that we are doing a good job despite difficult times!

  • Planning Application: Cumberland Service Station

    A planning application has been made to convert the Cumberland Service Station on Eastney Road into a convenience store.

    This would involve extending the current building to enclose virtually all of the area currently covered by the canopy. The current proposals include:

    • 279m2 retail shop
    • 10 customer parking spaces (+2 staff spaces)
    • No delivery yard – lorries delivering to the shop would stop on Eastney Road.

    Over the next week I will be visiting homes around the Eastney Road area to talk to people about the proposals and see if there are any specific concerns which I can pass on to the council.

    Formal representations on the plans can also be made to Portsmouth City Council by email to:
    planningreps@portsmouthcc.gov.uk
    or by writing to:
    PLANNING SERVICES, Civic Offices, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth PO1 2AU
    quoting the Planning Application number:
    11/00523/FUL

  • Diversity enriches Portsmouth

    Today I joined over 200 people of all ages in Guildhall Square to stand up for one simple belief. I stood holding a placard that said “We believe that diversity enriches Portsmouth”.

    Usually I wouldn’t choose to be standing out in the rain in Guildhall Square on a Saturday morning, but unfortunately today it was necessary. Why? Because today the racist thugs of the English Defence League came to Portsmouth again.

    Time and again the EDL have claimed to be a peaceful protest organisation but their record speaks for itself. The last time they visited Portsmouth they vandalised one of our local mosques, threw missiles injuring a young muslim woman and attacked police officers.

    Perhaps somewhat enlightening was my first experience of the EDL today. Standing in the queue to buy a sandwich I found myself behind one EDL member from their ‘Doncaster Division’ lecturing another about the ‘problems’ with ‘extremist’ Muslims in Portsmouth. As far as I could tell, this guy’s entire experience of Portsmouth was his 5 minute walk from Portsmouth and Southsea station to the Park Tavern. He boldly described how ‘everyone’ was fed up with ‘these muslims’. Quite frankly, as someone who actually does live in Portsmouth  I found his statements offensive. Portsmouth has little or no history of racial tension and in fact I am proud of our city’s capacity to welcome people of different faiths and different ethnic backgrounds and enable them to make Portsmouth their home.

    The EDL stands for everything I do not – intolerance, hatred and division.

    They have little or no known support in Portsmouth and this was just evidenced by them busing in their ‘supporters’ from across the country and still only mustering about 400 drunken thugs spoiling for a fight with the police. Sure enough, less than 2 hours later the EDL returned to form. 7 arrests for offences ranging from violent disorder to racist abuse and assaulting a police officer.

    The EDL’s brand of hatred and intolerance is not wanted in Portsmouth!

  • Will Purvis outside Brent Court

    The importance of independent living

    Today Councillor Leo Madden officially opened Brent Court, a £12 million extra care facility in Milton. Housing for older people might not sound like the most interesting or exciting of subjects, but it’s all too easy to miss how important this kind of housing is.

    Image courtesy of Calford Seaden

    Most older people want to stay living in their own home. This doesnt usually just mean the exact house they own, it means living in their local community, amongst their family and friends and most importantly, living independentally. Unfortunately, as people get older and their needs for care and support increase this can be extremely difficult to manage.

    I know this from my own family experience. As my father got more and more ill it became increasingly difficult to provide him with the level of care he needed to stay in our family home. Even with the help of our whole family and professional carers, it was a constant struggle to give him a comfortable environment where he felt safe and secure and with the support on hand whenever he needed it. The last thing he wanted was to ‘go in to a care home’. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that there are wonderful care homes out there, I admit I have little experience of them myself, but my father was determined that he did not want to go in to one. So we had to battle on supporting him as long as we could until his medical needs outstripped our ability to care for him at home.

    So what is so special about Extra Care? Well firstly its not a care home. It is purpose built apartments, designed esecially for the needs of older people and with care and support on hand. It means that older people can stay living in their ‘own home’ independently but with the care and support there whenever they need it. Having the prper facilities there to support carers makes a huge difference and with communal facilities as well residents don’t have to feel isolated. By building this sort of accomodation in our local area older people can stay livng in their local community wih their friends and family as a support network around them and the professional care standing by whenever they need it.

    Some people may ask why this matters to them? Some people have even said that the last thing we need is more flats in Milton. But think about this for a moment…

    Many older people currently live in larger properties, maybe 3 or 4 bedroom but use only 1, because this has been their family home. As these people downsize to move into this specialist accommodation they free up the larger properties desperately needed by families in our area.  On top of this, older people are less likely to drive cars, or at least to do so infrequently. This reduces traffic and actually benefits local business as they tend to prefer not to travel to shop.

    Whether you see it as a moral imperitive to support the older generation, whether you want to see housing stock freed up or whether you think that it will benefit the local economy, it is difficult not to see the benefits of Extra Care accommodation to the whole local community. So, exciting it may not be, but this development opening is an important step for our community!

  • Helicopter landings at QA

    G-BZRS

    Photo courtesy of John Ambler

    Unfortunately a row has erupted about emergency helicopter landings at Queen Alexandra Hospital here in Portsmouth. Rachel Hawthorn at The News has written an article about this which can be found here. I thought I should write a short explanation of the the issue as it is something I have been aware of for some time and have actively encouraged the hospital to resolve.

    Some time ago, the subject of emergency helicopter landings at the hospital was raised at a Public Board Meeting at the hospital, which I attended. It immediately caught my attention as it seemed absurd that helicopters were being diverted to Southampton costing both time and money. In talking to the Dr Richard Jones, the chief of medicine at QA, it did not appear that there was actual evidence of anyone’s life having yet been endangered by the delay in time that this caused, but it was not something that can be ruled out.

    Now, I appreciate the concerns of some local residents who live close to the hospital that they’re disturbed by the noise but I am afraid that I simply do not support their objection to allowing helicopters to land at the hospital at night. We would never dream of saying that standard ambulances could not arrive at the hospital after 6pm or that they were banned from using their lights or sirens. Quite simply, where the life of any individual is at risk, and particularly in cases where time is of the essence in receiving  treatment, that must take the priority over any other concerns. I trust medical professionals to make the right decision about where any patient should be transported to and I trust the ambulance service to do that with minimum disruption where possible.

    We are after all only talking about one out of hours landing a week or a fortnight!

    I am pleased that Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Leader of Portsmouth City Council, has also supported this view saying; ‘If you’ve got a hospital and a helipad which is used in an emergency, then use it’.

    I encouraged members of the Board to seek planning permission from the council to allow helicopter landing whenever and I will continue to support them in this. I await their planning application and I will try to be at any planning meeting that this goes to, to speak in support of allowing helicopter landings at the hospital whenever necessary!

  • PFI Profits

    Private companies are raking in huge profits from the Private Finance Initiatives on hospitals across the country, including the Queen Alexandra Hospital here in Portsmouth. And at what cost?

    As these companies make profits of 54% in less than 18 months (compared to an average of 5% profit on a standard construction project) at the expense of the taxpayer, they take the profits off-shore to avoid paying tax!

    BBC Radio 4’s award-winning documentary series File on 4 has produced an excellent expose of this scandal.

    I was pleased to contribute just a small part to this programme on he human cost to patients.

    You can download a podcast of the program from here

  • Fairer Votes For All!

    Today I dressed up as an Edwardian gentleman!

    Why? Because I was highlighting that in less than 5 weeks we have the opportunity to vote for the biggest reform to our electoral system since women were given the vote in 1918 (I decided I wouldn’t make a very pretty suffragette myself and left that to the ladies present!)

    suffragettes

  • Government review to report

    Today the Government’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel will report to the Health Secretary on their review of the closure of the G5 end-of-life care ward.

    willg5The report is not made public immediately, it can take up to a month.

    I look forward to reading the report and I hope that they have taken note of the serious concerns raised by patients, their families and staff at the hospital.

    When making substantial changes to care the hospital must always consult the public.

    I hope that the report will recommend that a full public consultation takes place and that the G5 ward should be reopened – at least while any new model of care is trialled first to see how it compares.

    I will be writing to the Health Secretary to re-iterate the strength of public opinion against the closure of the G5 ward and calling on him to carefully consider the details of the panel’s report as the decision about what action, if any, should be taken ultimately lies with him.

    (Photo courtesy of The News, Portsmouth)

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