Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 17th February 2016

Here in Swindon we have many wonderful organisations and local charities that quietly but effectively, make a huge difference to our quality of life.  At a time when some larger and national charities are increasingly coming under the spotlight for the way in which funds are raised and spent, it is important to be reminded of the work of local groups, often running on a shoestring, using their funds to directly support the service they provide.

One such organisation is Open Door, now in its thirtieth year and based at St Barnabas Church Hall in Gorse Hill.  Support for adults with learning difficulties and other disabilities is vital if they are to have the same opportunities as other people in our community.  Open Door does just that, with sessions and activities that help to empower people.  This support is hugely appreciated by families and Carers too.

The charity launched their 30th Anniversary Festival last year, and set a target of raising £30,000 by completing a number of challenges during 2015. I was delighted to see everyone again during my visit last Friday, and I’m thrilled to see that their fundraising is going so well - £27k and counting! My thanks to Manager Jenny and all of the members for giving so much of their time and effort towards raising money for an issue that is very close to my heart.

In light of a recent Government consultation on community pharmacies, I have received a number of letters and emails from fellow local residents about funding for pharmacies and the effect that the proposed changes will have on smaller pharmacies like Chris McKendrick’s Pharmacy here in Swindon, which I know and have visited in the past.

Community pharmacies are important community assets that play a key role in improving the health of local residents, and I want to see those pharmacies, upon which people depend, continue to thrive.

The Government wants to improve the system to deliver efficiency savings and ensure the model of community pharmacy reflects patient and public expectations as well as developments in technology. There has been a recent successful trial of integrating pharmacies into GP surgeries and NHS England is looking extend this.

In some parts of England there are more pharmacies than are necessary to maintain good access. NHS England is taking three months to work with pharmacists and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) to get this right and ensure a balance whereby patients benefit from the best service while pharmacy is placed on a sustainable level.

The Government will also seek views on updating legislation to allow independent pharmacies to benefit from remote dispensing processes which facilitate more use of automation and increase efficient dispensing processes. This will enable pharmacists to spend more time delivering clinical and public health services to patients.

The Department of Health is entering detailed discussions with the PSNC on the 2016/17 funding settlement to support community pharmacy. I have written to the Department of Health to put forward the concerns of local residents and show my support for local pharmacies whilst these discussions take place, and I will continue to monitor this issue closely.

Turning to West Swindon, it’s great to see the new Extreme Trampoline Park open at the Link Centre for local residents to enjoy.  

The new 1,100 square metre park, run by Better Extreme, is the second of its kind in the UK and offers state-of-the-art equipment including a main court with foam pits, extreme dodgeball area, basketball, fidget ladder, slack line and performance walls, the trampoline park will provide a fun haven for children and adults alike.

I’m a bit wobbly on the trampoline but my children love it, and it’s a great way to keep fit and active. Like many parents, I am keen to make sure that there isn’t too much time spent indoors on iPads or watching screens! Exercise for children is vital, and I welcome this new addition to the Link.

On Friday 4th March, I’ll be hosting another advice surgery at my constituency office on Wood Street. It’s always great to see new and more familiar faces and discuss a range of different issues, both local and national. If you’d like more information, or to book a slot, please call my office on 01793 533393, or drop me an email at

If you’d like more information about my work here Swindon and in Westminster as well as some important news, you can visit my website and fill out the ‘get email updates’ form on my homepage.