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November 2019 update from Councillor Dr. Paul Barrow

on Wed, 11/12/2019 - 1:10pm

Week ending 2019 11 16

The normal activity of the VWHDC has slowed down in the last few weeks because of effort being diverted to the general election.

PB is the Vale representative on the Council of Partners supporting the North Wessex Downs AONB and attended his first CoP meeting on Nov 12th. This is for me very much a learning process. It might be useful to feed some information back from the meeting as Letcombe Regis falls within the AONB. 

The AONB and AONB’s generally are going through a period of change. A review has been carried out by the journalist Julian Glover (it does seem a good review! See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/designated-landscapes-national-parks-and-aonbs-2018-review). The report was published in September and makes a number of suggestions which (apparently) the government regards favourably. AONBs will be designated as National Landscapes and will be better resourced to bring them up towards the level of support currently provided for National Parks. A detailed response from the government will be forthcoming in autumn 2020. 

The NWD AONB is being pressed into looking more imaginatively at funding sources and is currently exploring sponsorship. They are also being pressed to explore other ways to bring into the AONB sectors of the population who would not normally think of AONBs for relaxation etc. 

One of the interesting activities for me was farmer clusters where group of farmers are brought together to begin to act as custodians of individual environmental areas – a river, stream, set of meadows etc and I feel that this is something which could be explored outwith the AONB.

Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) grants are available to projects that bring economic, social or environmental benefits to the NWD AONB.

Please let me know of any issues that you feel are relevant for Letcombe Regis in its setting within the AONB if you wish anything to be fed back to the AONB management team.

Week ending Nov 23 2019

This week there have been two important county health meetings: (i) HOSC – the rather grandly named Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee which provides democratic oversight of county health provision, and (ii) the Health Improvement Board which acts as an intermediary between the local councils and the Health and Well-being Board which itself has democratic membership and contributes to deciding county-wide health policy taking into account the direction in which the National Health Service is going and other county-wide issues. 

County health is moving away from treatment towards prevention with greater emphasis on improving public health through life-style improvements and with the aim of reducing the need for treatments/therapy/interventions at the level of the GP or hospital and thereby reducing costs.

Clearly the huge cost of the NHS requires savings to be met wherever possible and this underpins the move towards adjacent counties working more closely together as is now occurring increasingly between Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and West Berks (BOB). This is the BOB ICS (Integrated Care System) where there is an aim to share facilities and services between the three counties wherever this is relevant although subsidiarity is also emphasised such that sharing will only occur where this is a benefit to patients. 

An issue of concern for HOSC is how these shared activities will be scrutinised adequately. It is likely that an additional ad hoc scrutiny panel will be established for this purpose.

The reorganisation of the health service aims at providing relief for the major hospitals where possible. The plan for the ICS is that increased services will be made available to local health centres which will be the hub of Primary Care Networks (PCN) also providing dental and social care services. Health Services in the OX12 post code area will be based around the Mably Way Health Centre. We have been told by the County Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that additional services will be provided to the Health Centre, including minor injuries and clinical pharmacy. How this pans out remains to be seen since this is work in progress and we will watch developments very closely. The Wantage Health Centre say that currently there will be no changes in staffing despite the fact that the local population covered by the Health Centre is due to increase by 50%.

Connected with this there is a delay in the final decision on health service provision for the OX12 area – because there is a convention that the result of consultations are not released during election purdah! Very convenient – we think because the CCG has not finalised its decision in detail. We have been told that possible services devolved to Wantage Hospital could include chemotherapy, dialysis and rehab. Minor injuries are likely to go to the Health Centre although this is not mentioned on the Health Centre leaflet about this. Watch this space, as will we – very closely.

One of the issues concentrating health minds in Oxfordshire is inequality of access and health generally. In OX12 we have a relatively healthy population whereas some nearby wards (Abingdon Caldicott) and also Blackbird Leys, Barton and Sandhills in Oxford and Banbury Ruscote are amongst the worst 20% nationally in terms of deprivation and low wages, drug and alcohol use and mental health are key issues affecting health. I mention this so that we can see that some parts of the county require a different level of health surveillance and service provision compared with that in OX12.

Councillor Dr. Paul Barrow, November 2019