Before going up to Parliament yesterday, I welcomed my party leader and health spokesperson to Rochester to launch UKIP’s health policy, and then visited a GP surgery followed by a school in special measures in Strood.
Our health launch was the second keynote event addressed by Nigel Farage and key UKIP spokespeople, a series which started two weeks ago on Canvey Island (which I often see looking across the estuary from Allhallows, but had not previously visited).
Suzanne Evans, UKIP’s policy chief, chaired the very well attended event at Rochester Corn Exchange, introducing Nigel Farage, followed by me, and then Louise Bours, our health spokesperson.
It was great to see so many old friends at the event, including council candidates who have come over to us from the Conservatives, and Denise Harker, the previous Chair of Medway Hospital, as well as several of our MEPs.
The NHS runs in my blood
I spoke about how the NHS ran in my blood to the extent that my father is a doctor and my mother worked as a nurse in the NHS. I recapped some of the work I have done locally and in Parliament on GP services, before talking about what is being done to try to turn round Medway hospital.
Perhaps the highlight of the event for me was introducing our recently selected candidate for Gillingham and Rainham, a highly respected and long-serving obstetrician from Medway hospital, Dr Mark Hanson. Together we will put turning around Medway hospital front and centre of UKIP’s general election campaign in Medway.
Louise Bours then impressed almost all assembled with her passion for the NHS in an articulate and fluently delivered speech. Her promise to abolish hospital car parking charges, ‘a tax on illness’ was notably well received.
I particularly support our decision to replace the failing Care Quality Commission with elected county health boards, and to give these the backstop powers of another quango, Monitor, to replace Chairs and Chief Executives of failing Foundation Trusts. UKIP will put the public in charge.
After introducing Nigel and Louise to constituents at the Corn Exchange, it was a privilege to take them on to Dr Juneja’s GP surgery in Strood, which I previously helped save from closure, and hear from him and patient representative Ron about the challenges our GPs face.
Special Measures again
I last visited Temple Mill after some money was misappropriated from the school. Whilst I was happy to try to get the school some recompense, I was concerned then that the excuse of lack of money was deployed for failings at the school.
A whole new leadership team is now in place at the school and answered all my questions today.
The new head due to start next term joined us. For now June, a constituent from Allhallows who usually runs a high performing primary near Elephant and Castle, is working closer to home as the temporary head at Temple Mill, Strood.
I am grateful to them for their work to turn round the school and am hopeful that before long we will see improving results at Temple Mill, although the overall standard of primary education in Medway is still not good enough.