My Column in the Morley Observer today

Last Wednesday, like people across the world, I watched in horror and outrage as the news unfolded about the massacre of journalists from the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Here in Morley, as well as right across the world, people have since come together to express joint outrage and solidarity with France over what has happened.

Freedom of speech is such a precious part of our democratic way of life, and yet here were journalists, singled out and gunned down in an evil terrorist attack, as were a police officer and innocent shoppers in a Jewish supermarket. We all stand in solidarity with the people of France, united in our determination to defeat all those behind these attacks.#JeSuisCharlie

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Out on the streets of Morley last weekend a number of local residents raised concerns about the pressures in local hospitals. “What is going on in those A&E departments Ed?” one pensioner asked me. There have been some incredibly worrying stories in the press over the last fortnight about A&E and the pressures the NHS is under – locally and nationally. And of course in the week after Christmas and New Year, often people do end up in A&E who might not otherwise. Problems that might have been more minor the week before become more serious, there is a rush for appointments with GPs who can’t meet the demand, and winter illnesses lead to increasing numbers needing hospital treatment.

Although additional resources had been planned for this time of year, the demand for services has far outstripped what the NHS could cope with. And with our aging population and cuts to social care budgets , many more older people are unable to leave hospital, because there isn’t the right kind of support in the community to enable them to come home or into a community facility.

Staff in the NHS do a brilliant job and in recent weeks, many have clearly been working under intense pressures – working extra hours and in difficult circumstances to meet the needs of patients being arriving in hospital. I’d like to thank all those who’ve been dealing with the consequences of winter pressures in our NHS over the last few weeks. Their hard work and dedication to public service is keeping vital services afloat.

But longer term we need to do more to ensure that winter pressures don’t cause the crises we are now seeing. I’d like to see GPs more linked in to A&E departments to reduce the pressure hospital staff are under. And if we could enable GPs to work more closely together, spare appointments in one surgeries could help another which is overloaded.

But most importantly we need more investment in the health service for health and social care professionals. I’ve said that by clamping down on tax avoidance, increasing taxes on tobacco and on the most expensive properties worth over £2m, we can invest £2.5 billion a year more in the NHS to fund more staff such as nurses and homecare workers and reduce the pressure the NHS is operating under.

At the end of the day, to solve the A&E crisis, like that we’ve seen in recent weeks, we also need to solve the social care crisis.

At my most recent local Dementia Friends meeting with the Alzheimer’s Society last week, we discussed how important care workers are in supporting those living with conditions like dementia. We need to do more to ensure our social care workers are treated properly and paid a decent wage for the vital job they do.

But as well as the professionals, there’s more we can all do to support people living with dementia and their carers. Becoming a Dementia Friend is about doing your bit. So whether it’s being patient when someone is taking a bit longer to pay in a shop or dropping in on a neighbour with dementia or giving their main carer a break, there are lots of things we can do to help those with dementia to feel included and to have an active role in life.

Heather Raistrick who came along to the session on Friday also highlighted the need for support for those caring for a loved one with dementia. The St Mary’s in the Wood Memory Café in Morley the Wood Church gives with dementia, and their carers, a time to relax and meet others. Along with the other local Memory Cafés, it’s a brilliant support for local people.

Anyone who wants to find out more about local groups should contact the Alzheimer’s Society care line on 0845 306 0898. Or if you think you or a loved one is not getting the support they need, please don’t hesitate to contact me in my Morley office: 0113 253 9466 /ed@edballs.

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Posted January 14th, 2015 by Ed