Several constituents have contacted me about the Parliamentary vote on the Privilege Committee report, and I would like to confirm that I did not abstain as has been reported by some people. I was actually on my honeymoon and therefore not present in Parliament at the time of the vote. In terms of my position on this, I have always been clear that during the COVID-19 pandemic, my office and my staff all worked within the rules and regulations throughout. Additionally, all my staff declined the supplementary expenses payments which were offered to them for working from home, as they all wanted to show solidarity with the North Cornwall public. It is difficult to know the full circumstances of events which were outside of my control, or that I was not present for - but I can give you my assurance that the staff under my direct management all conformed to the guidance.
I welcome the news that the government has delivered an extra 4 million tests, checks and scans to bust elective backlogs across the country. Community diagnostic centres (CDCs) including the one at Bodmin which opened last year, have delivered over four million checks, tests, and scans for patients across the country since July 2021, cutting waiting lists and giving patients quicker access to care. GPs can refer patients to a centre so they can access life-saving checks closer to home and be diagnosed for a range of conditions, rather than travelling to the hospital. The centres are not only more convenient for patients but are also more efficient for staff and free up clinicians’ time to help further cut the waiting lists. The government is showing progress on its promise to open 160 of the facilities by March 2025, with a further eight due to open before the end of the year, the Health and Social Care Secretary has today confirmed. These will provide capacity for more than 742,000 extra tests a year once fully operational, bolstering access to care. When we opened the Bodmin unit last November one of the key elements was the ability to help clear the local backlog. We have never had CT, MRI and Ultrasound in North Cornwall before, so I am very pleased with how things are working out. When I became MP, we had limited health infrastructure in the constituency, and I am very pleased to see that Bodmin is becoming a health hub for North Cornwall.
Recently I showed support for the rights of guide dog owners at an event in Parliament organised by the charity Guide Dogs. Guide dogs are key for many people with sight loss to get around independently, but research from the charity Guide Dogs has shown that 81% of guide dog owners have been turned away from shops, restaurants and other businesses because of their dogs. This discrimination can be humiliating and debilitating, and I hope you will all join me in supporting North Cornwall’s guide dogs and their owners.