REGARDING the NHS and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (stealth privatisation of our health service) I feel there’s not enough public discussion about this and there’s a strong suggestion there are underhanded deals behind closed doors in the EU, can you explain to the readers, in very simple English what TTIP is and how it will work in the UK and if you personally and the party are for or against TTIP?
Andrew Edwards, Winyates West
Karen’s response: The NHS is working hard to cut costs and is on track to make £20 billion of savings before 2015. In addition, spending on the NHS has increased by £12.7 billion in this Parliament and there are 8,337 fewer managers, 4,321 more doctors and 1,326 more midwives in the NHS than before 2010.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Economic studies suggest a successful agreement between the EU and US could bring economic benefits of up to £10 billion annually to the UK – the equivalent of almost £400 per household. It will widen the range of products available and give consumers more choice. It will also reduce trade costs, leading to cheaper goods and making it easier for small businesses to export, with less red tape.
TTIP will not change the way the NHS, or other public services, is run. Access to NHS services will continue to be based on patients’ needs, not ability to pay. Local NHS commissioners will remain in charge of deciding who should provide services in the best interests of patients. It must always be for the UK to decide for itself whether or not to open up our public services to competition.
WE KNOW you have been facilitating and attending meetings between headteachers, school governors and the EFA with regards the recent proposals to change the age range at TGAR. Please can you update us on how these meetings are progressing, and when we will know what decisions have been made?
Sharon Harvey, Southcrest
Karen’s response: I have arranged four very productive meetings where all the schools in the area have been able to meet and exchange their views on education in Redditch and how/if things could be better. All of the meetings were very productive and saw a frank exchange of views. I believe everybody that attended the meetings left with a clear view of the way forward and with lots to think about. There will be further meetings in the coming weeks where we will be able to revisit the issues. I have been very clear that I think what is required is a solution that is reached by us all working together.
Ultimately it will be up to the Government whether they accept the TGAR and/or Ridgeway proposals but local opinion will obviously play a key role in their decision making process. In the meantime I look forward to more beneficial discussions, working together to secure the best future for young people in our town.
GOVERNMENT ministers insist reconfiguration [of Worcestershire’s hospital services] must be decided locally so why now with time to act, are our democratically elected representatives seemingly impotent to act when one solution, amongst many options to be explored, is joint management of the Alex by the two Trusts?
Eric Rochester, Greenlands
Karen’s response: It is not fair to say democratically elected representatives are impotent to act. I have been doing all I can to ensure we get the best solution for the people of Redditch. I have been doing a lot of work with Sajid Javid from Bromsgrove and Nadhim Zahawi from Stratford, and we are all in constant contact with Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter. To their credit the leaders of the three local councils have also been very vocal on this matter. With only a few unfortunate exceptions we have all done our utmost to keep the politics out of this issue and to work together to secure the best for the hospital’s future.
It is obviously very disappointing the process has been going on for nearly three years without a conclusion. There is now just one option on the table and we will have a further consultation on this in the spring. I hope the people of Redditch will stand together to fight for their hospital as they have done so many times before.
ASSUMING the present Prime Minister (assuming he gets back in) is unable to negotiate an acceptable re-negotiation of the things that concern the present dis-satisfied electorate, what do you see as the disadvantages to the country of the following vote to come out (assuming it ever happens), to the country as a whole? What would you see as the advantages?
Peter Harris, Headless Cross
Karen’s response: I have been quite clear on my position on the European Union throughout my time as an MP. Prior to being elected I was campaigning in favour of a referendum, I voted for one in 2011, even before most of my party did, and I followed this up by voting in favour last year and again this month.
We need to do all we can to renegotiate our relationship with Europe to secure a deal that is best for our country and satisfactory for the British people. If we are unable to do this, when a referendum comes in 2017 I will be campaigning and voting to leave the European Union.
The relationship we need to create with Europe must be one of competitiveness, flexibility and, above all, fairness. The European Union must have more respect for national democracies and member states must be able to take back powers when they want them.