District & County Council Report, August 2018

I hope everyone has had the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic weather we have had in Ramsgate. I’ve been pleased to share some of the summer break with my grandchildren, who are growing up fast. It’s such a joy to be able to use Ramsgate Main Sands. There are also many fabulous local businesses which provide summer gloss, whether it be ice cream or a bucket and spade or a rented kayak and a much needed bag of chips. We’ve done them all and more.

Wetherspoon’s, Royal Victoria Pavillion has proved itself to be a ‘hit’ in its first full summer of operation, but come on, Tim Martin get your disabled toilet sorted out. The ground floor facility is great but I’m told the one on the upper level leaves so much to be desired.

Portraits and potholes

Meanwhile, further along the seafront the fair has sprung up on Ramsgate’s Pleasurama wasteland. I welcome this with caution. We have been crying out for something productive to happen ahead of any proper development. In the absence of a working building site a merry-go-round seems apt.

Karen Constantine and Jo Mapp
Karen Constantine and Project Motorhouse’s Jo Mapp at the unveiling of new hoarding artwork on Ramsgate seafront.

Surrounding the Pleasurama site are the hoardings, often referred to as ‘The Great Wall of Ramsgate’. I was delighted to appear as one of the ‘Portraits of Ramsgate’ amongst the ten additional panels which were created as a project between students from the Royal Harbour Academy and Chatham & Clarendon Grammar and Project Motorhouse under the guidance of Jo Mapp.

Aside larking about on the seafront, I started the summer being shadowed by a local student, Jay from Newington. Jay came to many meetings with me and has been helping to report potholes in my District Council ward. Pot holes are a hazard to all road users including cars and cyclists and, if left unchecked, can deteriorate leading to increasingly costly repairs as well as increased danger. Kent County Council aims to fix reported potholes within 28 days or 2 hours if deemed an emergency but can only do so if they know about them. To report a pothole, visit www.kent.gov.uk/roads-and-travel. Cycling UK has launched a website dedicated to help cyclists receive advice on pothole reporting and claiming. This can be found by visiting www.fillthathole.org.uk.

Summer Kitchen

Steve Albon, Theresa Smith and a few others have also been helping to run the Summer Kitchen. This community project has been providing highly nutritious food at St Christopher’s Church Hall in Newington three times per week. Plans are afoot to continue this beyond the summer months. I have huge admiration for the project founder, Sharon Goodyer who dreamt up the idea and, against the odds, saw it to fruition. The BBC covered her efforts in a South East news report during early August. Additionally, my thanks go to fellow Cllr Barry Lewis (we co-funded this project) and Thanet Earth and all the other donors.

Steve Albon and Theresa Smith prepare for another round of meals at the Summer Kitchen in Newington
Steve Albon and Theresa Smith prepare for another round of meals at the Summer Kitchen in Newington.

Public transport

There has been a great deal of concern about cuts to the bus services. I contacted the KCC member Cllr Mike Whiting, Cabinet member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste, several times to seek a meeting for Ramsgate residents. I’m afraid Mike let me down! We need to halt any closures to bus services. We need better services, cheaper, more reliable transport, especially train services.

The High Speed link that Labour’s Steven Ladyman, MP lobbied for is vital to Thanet’s economic success. The proposed Thanet Parkway station will add 2 minutes to Canterbury and London bound journey times. Signalling upgrades to the line will save 3 minutes, giving us an overall journey cut of a single minute. I believe the £millions earmarked for Thanet Parkway station in a field near Cliffsend would be better used elsewhere in Ramsgate.

Ramsgate Port concerns

Airbus cargo ship in Ramsgate Port

It would be remiss of me not to mention the Port. It seems highly unlikely that we will ever return to successful ferry services. Even if we did attract ferry companies, it’s a volatile and competitive market place. I support a full review of Ramsgate Port. However I do not want to see it privatised. I want to see what can be achieved for the good of Ramsgate and Thanet overall. Steve Coombes of Ramsgate Action Group organised a meeting, which I attended, to discuss mismanagement and losses at The Port. He is now petitioning Thanet District Council to create an independent working party to investigate these issues. You can sign the petition here.

Millbrook Healthcare

The plight of NHS wheelchair users made headlines earlier in July. As a member of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) on Kent County Council, I spoke out strongly against the evident failure of private company, Millbrook Healthcare who were contracted in Kent to deliver wheelchair provision to long and short term users. Wheelchair users are extremely angry about the poor service provided by Millbrook. I have to say it simply isn’t acceptable for so many people to have to wait to be measured properly, or to have repairs. I am in regular touch with a variety of people and wheelchair user groups. We must get this right.

Edging closer to the Stroke Unit decision

Three NHS CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups), including Thanet have been placed into special measures. This is obviously not good news. The review of the Kent and Medway Stroke until is ongoing. The decision will be taken in January 2019. I have asked for the following:

  • Labour do not have formal representation on the joint HOSC. Labour must have proper representation going forward
    We need a HASU in Thanet. No ifs no buts.
  • 120 mins ‘door to needle time’ is too long and does not have the confidence of the public. The public are opposed to this and any health care provision MUST have the confidence of the public. We have received over 5000 signatures to our Labour petition.
  • Workforce gaps which hamper the delivery of service across Kent. These needs must must be fully identified and met and services should not be configured around gaps, rather gaps should be filled. I will be calling for a through examination of the NHS workforce issue.
  • Re social care needs, which are continuing to grow. We have a continued shortage in Thanet we need to know urgently how will this be addressed.

FOI letter to SECAmb

I have written the CEO of SECAmb (South East Coast Ambulance Service) Daren Mocrie this is being treated as a freedom of information request. I will of course share the findings widely. Here is my letter of 21st August 2018:

Dear Daren,

I’m writing on behalf of a number of people who have contacted me with pressing concerns. These are serious matters to which I expect an urgent response. These are matters that are within the ‘public interest’.

  1. Across the South East, the SECAMB operational area. Which areas are on, or have been on purple / black surge in the last 3 months. Can you provide full details please.
  2. On August 13th, 2018, I gather there were 7 night crews active. 5 of these crews were out of the Thanet area. Can you outline the area that the two other crews were covering and explain if two crews for the area is ‘usual’ and viable.
  3. During that night did anyone wait for an ambulance longer than they should have? If a crew was mobilised as C1 or C2 did those crews arrive on time?
  4. Can you comment further on the staffing of ambulances. Is a paramedic always on an ambulance? If not why not?
  5. With regard to non NHS and PAS crewed ambulances and on board equipment. How well equipped are the PAS ambulances? How often are they stock checked? Do they all carry viable shock equipment all the time? How many reports have been received over the last 12 months from staff about poor faulty or missing equipment?
  6. I’m receiving regular reports of long and unacceptable delays from people injured and waiting for ambulances. What steps are being taking to reduce waits?

I look forward to your early response,

Kind regards

Cllr Karen Constantine.

Letter to Craig Mackinlay

A number of us, Jenny Matterface, Sharon Goodyer, Jane Hetherington, Dick Symonds, Cllr Barry Lewis and myself have written to Craig Mackinlay urging him to raise the issue of the crisis in children’s and adolescents mental health in Parliament. I’m waiting a response

31 August 2018

Dear Craig,

We hope you have had a good summer break?

Locally community activists have been running an excellent ‘summer kitchen’ project which has helped to ensure many local people, and children in particular, have had frequent, nutritious meals through out the school holidays.

It’s been great fun to do too! Both of the kitchens have served South and North Thanet residents and were held at Draper’s Mill, and St Christopher’s Church, Newington, which is of course, in your constituency.

Whilst we all seek to do what we can to promote the health and wellbeing of all Thanet’s residents. As the new term approaches we the undersigned are extremely concerned about yet more research that indicates a deepening crisis in mental health care for our young people. We are concerned about the lack of services for adolescents in Thanet.

A  very recent HSJ report claims –

  • More than 500 children and young people assessed as needing Tier-3 child and adolescent mental health services had waited more than a year to start treatment.
  • New data shows nearly half of the 11,000 young people assessed ‘as needing care’ waited more than 18 months.
  • NHS warned long waits are “unacceptable” and ministers need to commit new funding to meet rising demand.

As you will also be aware, earlier in March figures showed the shocking reality of mental health care provision across Kent. Up to 800 hundred vulnerable children aged 8 – 11 years old are waiting for up to two years for an assessment for autistic spectrum conditions and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder.

That is a 2 year wait just for the assessment! Not for any treatment.

The figures, released in March this year by Kent & Medway Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) clearly show that too little money was identified for the contract, meaning that much needed assessments and treatments are having to wait.

Another sobering report by the Guardian in the last few days released figures which also show how many children are being sent to in-patient beds far from home.

“1,039 children and adolescents in England were admitted to a non-local bed in 2017-18, in many cases more than 100 miles from home,”

We know adolescents in Thanet have been impacted by this.  We wonder if you could raise these matters in Parliament? We clearly have a crisis in mental health amongst our young people and this is evident in South Thanet. Only this week the Children’s Society released a report outlining shocking and rising levels of self harm.

“More than a fifth of 14-year-old girls in the UK said they had self-harmed.

11,000 children found 22% of the girls and 9% of the boys said they had hurt themselves on purpose in the year prior.”

We urgently need more ring-fenced money and importantly more professional staff for the provision of mental health services to our children.

We await your response,

Yours Sincerely
Cllr Karen Constantine. HOSC member.
Dr R L Symonds. Consultant psychiatrist.
Jane Hetherington. Principal Psychotherapist and Operational Lead, Kent Early Intervention Service
Sharon Goodyer. Founder and CEO Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet (CIC)
Cllr Jenny Matterface. Labour Group Leader
Cllr Barry Lewis. KCC.

Continuing to do all I can

It seems to me that Ramsgate is caught in the middle of a storm with unresolved issues such as the Port and the future of Manston. It is clear that our Health Service and Social Care are not up to scratch and, despite the best efforts of staff, both they and the resources are being stretched too thinly. We are failing to house our homeless. We are failing to adequately look after vulnerable children. As your County and District Councillor, I will continue to do all I can politically and as part of our vibrant and strong community. I am hopeful that we can really start to resolve these issues soon.