The faster you can get the care you need, the better health you’ll be in.
This simple but powerful idea is at the centre of everything I’m working on as a Health Minister at the moment to reform our health and social care system.
By bringing care closer to home and identifying conditions when they’re more treatable, we can help people stay out of hospital and live healthy and independent lives for longer.
Primary care services like GPs have a huge role to play in this, but since the pandemic lots of people locally have found it harder to see their GP. That’s why I’ve made GP and dentist appointments one of my 5 local priorities for Faversham and Mid Kent, and I’m pleased to report on recent progress.
In October 2023 there were more than a million appointments offered by GPs in Kent and Medway – an increase of nearly 20% in the last two years alone. Two-thirds of these appointments are taking place face-to-face, and GPs deserve a huge amount of credit for making this happen.
I’ve also been supporting local GPs to expand in Faversham and Hollingbourne, and I’m still working on bringing new services to Park Wood and to Teynham.
These expansions will be supported by the new Kent Medical School which I campaigned for when I first became an MP. It opened in 2020 and will soon be churning out new doctors, who we know often stay working near where they train.
However with demand still on the rise we’ve got to change how we do things too, and that’s why from today the government is launching Pharmacy First.
There’s a reason why the local pharmacy is often the first place we go when we're ill or need advice. You might have to queue for a few minutes, but if the pharmacy's open you can guarantee you'll be seen that day.
From this month we’re going to make even better use of their skills. We’re expanding their role and for the first time ever allowing them to prescribe some medicines, as well as increasing access to things like blood pressure checks and oral contraceptives.
These plans go hand in hand with cutting bureaucracy for GPs, hiring 26,000 more primary care professionals, and putting in place new phone systems to finally end the 8am rush for appointments.
These changes are to help people get care more easily, and I’d love to hear how they’re working out for you. Please do pop into your local pharmacy and have a chat about what they offer, and keep letting me know about any problems you’re having in your area.
At the same time I’m also working to increase the number of NHS dentist appointments locally, and I’m currently campaigning with other Kent MPs for a new Kent Dental School.
You can find more information about this and all of the above on this website.