Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 20th January 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. I have long been pressing for is fairer funding for our town’s local health services. Over the past few years, I have pushed the Department of Health and NHS England,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. We also requested that the budget period be increased from two years to five ensuring that future plans can be made with greater certainty.  Two years ago, the Government’s decision to adjust the formula so that our community health services received an extra £20 million was extremely welcome.  It helped to reverse a downward funding trend that had developed under Labour in the years before 2010.


When Dr. Crouch first alerted us to the unfairness of the funding formula and the problems facing the delivery the Radiotherapy Unit, Justin and I were only too happy to offer all the assistance we could and I was thrilled with the news last week that Swindon’s overall long-term financial support was secure thanks to a further major increase in funding. 


Following a number of letters to the Chief Executive of NHS England, and discussions with the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, NHS England announced last week that it will finally be amending the funding formula and increasing certainty by moving to five year budgets.


Under the old system, Swindon CCG would have received an annual increase of £5-6 million a year. Under the new allocation formula, however, annual growth for Swindon instead will now range between £7million and £12million per annum. When the total effect of the introduction of the new allocation formula is taken into consideration, instead of receiving an increase of £30 million between 2016 and 2021, the CCG will now receive an increase of around £44 million.


Overall, the change driven by the new formula represents 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 Englandannounced that the Radiotherapy Unit at the Great Western Hospital has finally been given the go ahead.


As I mentioned in my column recently, a fundraising campaign for the new centre was first launched last May by the Great Western Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust. Justin Tomlinson MP and I wrote to Jeremy Hunt and Simon Stevens (Chief Executive of NHS England) asking for their support, and I helped to raise awareness of the campaign by uploading a photo of me standing in front of Big Ben and using the hashtag #TheTimeIsNow. At the start of this year, I was delighted to take part in an very wet and windy run at Uffcott Farm to help raise money for the Centre. 


For too long, our friends and family who have been cancer patients from Swindon have suffered the pain & discomfort of having to travel hundreds of miles every year in round-trips to Bristol & Oxford for treatment. The £2.9million facility, set to open in late 2017, will mean that patients from Swindon and the surrounding area will in future be able to receive vital treatment in their own town without having to travel over an hour to the nearest Radiotherapy Centre in Oxford.


Securing this new facility, right at the heart of the GWH, and delivering a five year cumulative investment of £127 million means that patients in Swindon will benefit from both of these significant improvements. 


Last Friday, shortly after these announcements were made, I met NHS England and the CCG to discuss another important issue in Swindon: GP shortages. 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’m delighted to see that work has begun on the 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.


This new project also marks the next stage of the Kimmerfielddevelopment as part of the regeneration of our Town Centre. Over the next few years, the old Carfax site will be replaced with a mixture of new apartments, offices and eateries which will create a modern new business hub in Swindon next to a new and improved Fleming Way and bus station. 


As your local MP, I am also fully supportive of moves to end the current PFI (Private Finance Initiative) deal that is costing GWH so much per year and will do whatever I can to help with this process. Hopefully we will see some progress on this in 2016. 


As ever, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you would like to attend one of my advice surgeries or speak to me about a local or national issue. My next surgery is at my office on Wood Street on 29th January between 1 and 4, soyou’ll need to book an appointment for this one by phoning 01793 533 393, or emailing me at