Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Why overseas aid matters

Three years ago I went on a trip to Pakistan organised by the British Council which involved supporting a group of education advocates aged 18-25 who were campaigning to implement a new law which guaranteed free state education at both primary and secondary level. It seemed that getting the law passed was only the first step in the long road to making sure all children in Pakistan had access to education.

I blogged briefly about that trip at the time, but the whole pasty tax issue came up at the same time (to the extent that I was trying to organise a campaign from a hotel room eight time zones away). But since that time I have closely followed the work of the 'IlmPossible' campaign and the campaigners we worked with.

Today came the news that one of the campaigners, Noman Akhtar, has taken the step of moving from being an advocate for change to being the change he wants to see. He is now teaching slum children - one of the groups least able to access a basic right such as education.

Noman writes (please bear in mind that English is not his working language):

"May be right now I'm unable to provide them with proper school environment and props like uniforms, books, shoes, and stationary, may be I'm restricted to a hut classroom up till now yet I'm dedicated to give my full attention and affection to these child because they deserve it the most. I'm pretty sure that educating a child is merely equal to educating a whole family. With the grace of Allah, today i have my 1st Basic Education class at Slum area Huts for those children who are actually beggars, Labors, and extremely poor with the believe that my efforts will surely bring a positive change in them !! Need your extra support and wishes for this noble cause"

I don't pretend that the trip we made three years ago had anything other than a fleeting impact on people who were already as committed as Noman, but the support that the UK government gives through DFID projects such as ours to work like Noman's is absolutely vital. Education helps to stamp out terrorism and money spent in Pakistan on projects like this makes our country safer.

Monday, 9 February 2015

MP’s disappointment at lack of action on Launceston Medical Centre expansion

North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson has said that NHS England and Conservative Health Ministers are passing the buck on the issue of approving crucial guidelines to allow GP practices to expand. GP practices cannot expand until new NHS ‘Principles of Best Practice’ guidelines are approved.

Launceston Medical Centre is one such surgery. The centre has plans to expand the number of treatment rooms, to improve access and to increase parking provision - but the centre will not be able to go ahead and submit their plans for approval until the NHS publishes its expansion guidelines.

Launceston Medical Centre is the town’s only GPs surgery and serves an area of approximately a 10 mile radius from the centre of Launceston. The Practice currently has 17,600 registered patients and the list is growing each year – in the last 12 months more than 300 extra patients have joined.
Delays in the guidelines would also hold-up aspirations for a new medical centre in Camelford.

NHS England has been promising to publish the guidelines for a number of months. Despite many reassurances that the guidelines would available ‘soon’, they have still not materialised.

North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson has been pressing NHS England and the Conservative Health Minister Lord Howe to act. Following a public meeting with NHS England representatives in December, local residents, Dan Rogerson and Launceston councillors were told that the guidelines were awaiting the approval of Lord Howe.

But in a letter this week to Dan Rogerson, Lord Howe said that whilst the delays were “frustrating”, approving the guidelines for expanding GPs surgeries was not his responsibility.

Dan Rogerson MP commented:

“We have been told by NHS England that the delays are due to ministers at the Department for Health, but this week we have heard from the Health Minister that the problems lie with NHS England."

“Over the past few months we have been urging NHS England to approve these crucial guidelines, so that Launceston Medical Centre can submit their plans to expand the surgery to help meet the growing demand from people in and around the town."

“Local people will rightly expect Health ministers and NHS England stop blaming each and start working together in the interests of patients in Launceston and across North Cornwall. I have once again asked the Health Minister Lord Howe to intervene and meet with me and senior executives from NHS England so that we can all sit down and sort this situation out once and for all.”