I was delighted to attend the Annual Student Awards at Thomas Whitham Sixth Form Centre. It was a real pleasure to celebrate the achievements of a group of talented young people. I applaud the staff and governors who have worked so hard to ensure that these Burnley young people get the very best start in life. The students of course deserve the most recognition because it is their abilities coupled with a lot of hard work and determination that has brought them success. Thomas Whitham’s is proud of them and Burnley should be too.
Continuing the theme of young people, I am very concerned about the Government’s attack on student nurses. From September 2017 bursaries for student nurses will be scrapped and will be replaced by loans. This will force huge debts on to these key health service workers and will undoubtedly deter people from entering the profession. Our hospitals, both locally and nationally are already struggling to recruit nurses and often have to rely on expensive, agency staff. This Government plan is bad for ‘would be’ nurses, bad for the NHS and most importantly bad for patients.
Indeed it seems that the Government has gone to war with NHS workers. As I write this forty five thousand junior doctors have voted for strike action, in what will be the first industrial action that doctors have taken since 1975. The dispute has arisen because the Government intends to impose a new contract without negotiation; a contract that will worsen doctors’ working conditions; a contract that will jeopardise patient safety. I sincerely hope that the Government will take action to avert this strike because I know that the doctors want to negotiate a way through this but at the moment the Health Secretary isn’t prepared to listen. During the period of the strike, PATIENT SAFETY will be the top priority and therefore all emergency care will proceed as normal and no patient will be at risk. So, in the case of a medical emergency, local people should dial 999 in the usual way. Routine treatments and planned non urgent operations are likely to be rescheduled. In the event that the dispute is not resolved, further strike action is scheduled to take place later in January and also in February. I recently had surgery at Burnley General Hospital and am continuing to have after care at Blackburn Royal and I have to say that the care that I have received from consultants, doctors and nurses on both sites has been excellent and I am really appreciative.
On Sunday I spent an enjoyable evening celebrating the work of Burnley’s Jinnah Centre. Whenever I visit community groups I am always impressed by the work of volunteers and I was therefore delighted to present awards to those who have given so much of their time during 2015.