This week I have had a real focus on looking at the health of our communities in Lancaster and Fleetwood. After seeing the BBC news report last month saying that according to figures from Public Health England on average people in Fleetwood die younger compared to the rest of England.
Life expectancy for a man living in Pharos ward is nearly seven years lower compared to more prosperous ward of Tithebarn, just six miles away. Illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, lung and heart disease - mostly related to lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, alcohol and smoking - are claiming lives at an alarming rate. I’m also aware, through cases that I see one-to-one in my advice surgeries and through other meetings, that access to mental health services is often a real challenge. Both in Fleetwood and across the rest of my constituency too.
So I met with the new Chair for NHS Lancashire Care and raised many of these issues and concerns with him. He has come to Lancashire from another part of the NHS and told me that our mental health referrals are three times higher here, than the national average.
I also went to visit two of our local mental health residential units that serve our area, one for children and teenagers and one for adults. It struck me that we need to invest more in children and adolescent mental health services, because by not supporting young people we see them as adults when they have got much sicker. That is a bad use of NHS resources, but most importantly it’s a waste of a person’s time and ability to live their life.
This has brought home the importance of campaigning for joined up services from home to hospital with a properly integrated health and social care service. Mental health should be given the same priority as physical health, ensuring mental health is at the heart of a health and social care service centred on people and their families. We should prioritise preventative services to stop problems from developing in the first place, and rather than pick fights with hardworking doctors and nurses, we should value and support NHS staff to deliver high quality care for patients.
If you want to share your experiences of the NHS with me, please write to me at 50 Lord Street, Fleetwood, FY7 6DT or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org