Guest blog

We are really pleased that local MP, Tulip Siddiq, has agreed to be our guest blogger this month. Here is what she has to say:

As the Member of Parliament for Hampstead and Kilburn, I am proud to represent an area in which residents are vocal when they have concerns over local services. This is particularly true in matters of health and social care, not least because so many world-class medical professionals live and work in the area!

Unfortunately, it is also the case because Hampstead and Kilburn is home to some of the most acute deprivation in the country. The constituency sits across two boroughs, Brent and Camden, and in both there is a constant need for the advocacy and support that is so expertly delivered by organisations such as Healthwatch Camden.

Since being elected in 2015, I have attempted to channel the ethos of Healthwatch and provide a voice to local healthcare users on a number of issues.

From questions over winter funding for the NHS, to anticipating the effects of GP closures, to pushing for the introduction of safer prenatal treatment, I have been keen to relay the views of residents directly to the Department of Health.

The healthcare challenges ahead are clear and profound.

Unprecedented industrial action by Junior Doctors could bring short-term disruption, but the bigger questions surround the viability of a 7-day a week NHS, not least as investment continues to fall short – both in terms of frontline services and capital expenditure.

Certain problems are clearly beyond immediate remedy and communication will be vital to ensuring residents retain confidence in their healthcare providers.

For example, the global shortage of the BCG injection, which immunizes children against Tuberculosis (TB), has proved a serious cause for concern.

As one of many London boroughs that have experienced a higher incidence of TB, parents in Camden need to have the confidence that children will not be exposed to increased risk.

In this case, the Central and North West London NHS Trust were helpful in initial statements explaining the nature of the shortage, but they must keep the public updated on the progress being made whilst trying to manage the consequences of exhausted BCG stocks.

My inbox has been inundated with emails from worried parents wanting to know when they can expect their child to receive the vaccination. As a new mother myself, I had no trouble relating to these anxieties.

The need for clear communication and policy direction is even more pressing in the world of social care. England remains one of the few advanced countries that have not reformed long-term care funding in response to the needs of an ageing population.

2017 will be a vital year in this policy journey, as we can assess the impact made by the social care precept, a 2% hike in council tax that was introduced by the Government to meet the costs of care provision. Regardless, the challenges facing the NHS and social care are inextricably linked and will ultimately need a long-term solution.

In the meantime, I hope residents will continue to contact my office with pressing health or social care questions that they may have. I hope too, that they continue to make the most of vital resources, such as Healthwatch Camden, who are operating at the heart of our community to solve problems. By reaching out in such a way, residents will be better placed to take control and get the treatment and care as they require it.