Robert's Weekly Column - 4 May 2016

Swindon is a town that continues to grow, and one key issue that is often raised by residents is the development of our local NHS. Previously, I have campaigned alongside my friend and colleague Justin Tomlinson MP and Dr. Peter Crouch, Clinical Chair of the CCG, to address the national funding formula which led to Swindon receiving less than its fair share of support than areas of comparable size and deprivation.

Back in January, following a number of letters to the Chief Executive of NHS England and discussions with the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, I announced in my column that Swindon’s overall long-term financial support was secure thanks to a further major increase in funding. The change driven by the new formula represented an increase in cumulative investment in the Swindon CCG healthcare economy of £45 million over five years, with investment up from £82 million to £127 million.

Then there came some more great news, as NHS England announced that the Radiotherapy Unit at the Great Western Hospital had finally been given the go ahead.

The Government’s announcement of a £10 billion investment in the NHS is further good news for both GPs and patients here in South Swindon. Investing in primary care, the NHS will earmark an extra £2.4 billion a year for GP services by 2020/21. This means spending will rise from £9.6 billion in 2016/17 to over £12 billion by 2021 - a 14 percent real terms increase.

The Government has also pledged to deliver 5,000 more doctors working in general practice by 2020 through new incentives for training, recruitment, retention and return to practice. In addition, 30000 new fully funded practice-based mental health therapists have been pledged along with an extra 1,500 co-funded practice clinical pharmacists, and nationally funded support for practice nurses, physician assistants, practice managers and receptionists.

Work is well underway to build a new Health Centre on Fleming Way, replacing the current facility near to that site. The new Centre will be made up of two GP practices as well as other services including opticians and dentists.  NHS England, the Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Swindon Borough Council are jointly involved in this development, which is another welcome boost for our local health services.

Earlier in the year, I met with NHS England and the CCG to discuss GP shortages here in Swindon. I am in regular contact with local GP surgeries and patients across our town and I am aware of the considerable challenges being faced by some GP practices. As a result of this meeting, I’ll continue to speak to local surgeries in the coming months and encourage them to explore different options that could ease the pressure.  It is clear to me that if surgeries work together, then some local staffing solutions might be found that help ensure that patients can be seen as soon as possible.

I hold regular surgeries at my constituency office on Wood Street. If you would like to make an appointment to raise a local or national issue with me, please do not hesitate to contact my office on 01793 533393 or send an email to