As the month of Ramadan comes to a close, I want to wish a happy and healthy Eid al-Fitr to all Muslims celebrating across Edgbaston constituency and around the world.
Birmingham Children’s Trust achieves ‘Good’ in Ofsted inspection
Ofsted’s report into Birmingham children’s services was published this week with inspectors rating our city’s provision in all areas as ‘Good’. This is the outcome of a decades-long journey in our city.
Historically, the service was rated ‘Inadequate’ but has been improving in recent years. This week, Ofsted recognised the continued political drive for improvement, which has been sustained through the pandemic, rating Birmingham City Council and the Children’s Trust as ‘Good’.
In their report, Ofsted noted how “political leaders give great priority to children in Birmingham. Despite the financial pressures the council faces, investment in strengthening services in response to increased demand is a continuing commitment.”
The achievement of 'Good' from Ofsted is the outcome of the continued political drive of both Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Children's Trust. It's an achievement that shows how children are at the heart of everything the city council and leadership are doing.
As a former Children's Services Manager in Birmingham, I'm proud of the dedication of our social workers who continue to work hard to safeguard our children despite the cuts and austerity brought to key services by this Conservative Government.
Ambulance waiting times soar to the longest on record
New figures emerged this week detailing how ambulance response times hit record highs this winter, with patients with conditions like strokes and heart attacks waiting an hour and a half on average in December.
More than 48,000 people across the West Midlands region waited more than two hours. On the long list of 999 calls were thousands of people suffering strokes, chest pains, 'trauma' injuries and breathing problems as well as people who were unconscious. The picture across the UK is even bleaker with one patient left waiting two and a half days for an ambulance.
Patients are also facing record long waits outside hospitals once ambulances arrive, due to staff and bed shortages. One patient in our region waited 32 hours outside a hospital in the back of an ambulance. This simply isn’t acceptable. That’s why last April I wrote to the then Health Minister Savid Javid regarding dire warning being issued by West Midlands Ambulance Service. His response arrived more than two months later but failed to address how the Government will tackle the root causes of the issues within the ambulance service.
I was appalled that Greg Hands, the Conservative Chairman, described Britain’s public services as being in ‘good shape’. Regardless of party politics, I simply don’t understand how anyone can come to that conclusion when 7 million patients are on NHS waiting lists, 98% of rapes are going uncharged and 1.2 million households are caught up in the housing crisis and are stuck on waiting lists for a suitable property.
It’s distressing that patients can no longer trust that an ambulance will reach them in an emergency. Stroke and heart attack victims are left waiting for hours, when every second counts. This is the terrifying reality after 13 years of Conservative understaffing of our NHS and is why, earlier this year, I also backed Birmingham Live’s campaign pressing for urgent action to drastically improve ambulance response times.
Patients should be able to phone 999, safe in the knowledge that they will get an answer and an ambulance when they need it. The longer we give the Conservatives in office, the longer patients will wait.
Labour will launch the biggest expansion of the NHS workforce in history, training the staff needed to reach patients on time, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status. We will ensure the NHS is there for us when we need it once again.
Raising my concerns on future pandemic preparedness
This week I spoke in Westminster Hall on the UK’s pandemic preparedness.
The Covid pandemic has been one of the most surreal and seismic global events of our lifetimes. 212,000 people have died as a result in the UK, our economy has been directly hit to the tune of £250 billion of lost GVA and the social impacts on everything from our children’s lost learning to NHS waiting lists will be felt for years to come.
It would be easy to write off the pandemic as an act of God, but that would also be irresponsible. The extent of the damage the pandemic caused was not inevitable. The UK was badly underprepared. NHS waiting lists were at record levels even before the pandemic hit. We had 100,000 staff shortages in our health service. 112,000 vacancies in social care.
Pandemic preparedness must therefore be taken seriously as a matter of national security. Future threats could be far deadlier than Covid-19. It is why the Labour Party supports the principle of a legally binding World Health Organisation treaty, which sets the standard for all countries to contribute to global health security. Our country was set back not just once, but three times by new dangerous Covid variants which had originated overseas. We are stronger together that trying to firefight these crises alone.
The World Health Organisation is the primary UN agency for international public health. In its history of over 70 years, it has contributed to the eradication of smallpox and has helped immunise millions of children against preventable diseases such as tuberculosis and measles. If we can use the World Health Organisation to support basic universal healthcare around the world, then infectious diseases are less likely to spread and fuel global pandemics. That is in our interests.
Labour has a comprehensive plan to strengthen Britain’s health security. To end the 13 years of sticking plaster politics under this Government and return Britain to the international stage as a trusted partner.
What’s happening around the constituency?
This week I had the honour of cutting the ribbon to mark the opening of the Bartley Green Community Fridge. The first community fridge in Birmingham, will help address food insecurity, getting free food to families and reducing food waste. The Community Fridge is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 11am to 5pm on a first come first served basis at 26-30 Hillwood Road.
As well as being part of the council’s Warm Spaces programme, St Germain’s Church on City Road has just launched a raft of fabulous community programmes. They include a new exercise class called ‘Move It or Lose It’ which runs on Thursdays between 12.45-1.30pm and a free ‘Music for All’ class involving drums, singing and collaboration which runs every Friday 2-4pm.
This Saturday, FoodCycle will be coming to St Boniface Church on Quinton Road West. The project welcomes everyone to come and enjoy good company and conversation with others from your local area over a delicious meal, prepared with care by FoodCycle volunteers. No need to book, just turn up at 12pm.
And finally, the Mobile Household Recycling Centre will be returning to the constituency on the following dates and locations between 7am – 12pm.
Edgbaston – Ampton Road, B15 2UP – 27th April
Harborne – Vicarage Road, B17 0SN – 2nd May
North Edgbaston – Glencoe Road, B16 0PB – 5th May
Bartley Green – Monmouth Road, B32 3NP – 10th May
Quinton – Simmons Drive, B32 1ST – 31st May
Preet Kaur Gill MP
Birmingham Edgbaston covering Bartley Green, Edgbaston, Harborne and Quinton