New health minister Matt Hancock gives first interview
In his first interview after being made Health Secretary, Newmarket MP Matt Hancock told the Journal how he relished the challenge of his unexpected promotion and how his new post would see him keep a particularly keen eye on the future role of the town’s hospital.
“Of course I am very aware of the importance of Newmarket Hospital to the town,” said Mr Hancock, who had been briefed on the impending move of Oakfield Surgery from its current site in Vicarage Road to the hospital’s campus in Exning Road affecting just over 7,000 patients.
The relocation could see the primary care services provided by GPs from the surgery delivered alongside the hospital’s community health services creating a health and wellbeing hub.
And it is that kind of local service provision Mr Hancock is very much in favour of. “When I first became an MP there was a threat to the future of the hospital but having a GP practice on site will provide a valuable integrated local service,” he said.
Making his first visit to Newmarket on Friday since being made Health Secretary just 11 days previously, Mr Hancock met members of OneLife Suffolk, a free healthy lifestyle service commissioned by Suffolk County Council which aims to promote free public health events in the town.
He said one of the advantages of his new post was being able to provide a boost for local health projects in his constituency.
And he applauded the initiative which will be returning to the memorial hall to deliver health checks to residents on Thursday, August 30, from 9:30am –4pm.
“We must take a more holistic approach to prevention and take more responsibility for our own health and keep ourselves more healthy,” he said.
As well as offering NHS Health Checks, OneLife also provides weight management advice , stop smoking support, health walks and physical activity support for those living with some long-term conditions.
In a role which will see the decisions he makes impact on the lives of millions of people, Mr Hancock said a serious accident suffered by his sister, three-day event rider, Emily Gilruth, just over a year ago, had made him even more acutely aware of just how important the NHS was.
“Emily fell off while competing in the cross country at Badminton. She was airlifted to Bristol’s Southmead Hospital where it was found she had suffered a traumatic brain injury and she was in a coma for four days,” he said.
Emily spent three weeks in hospital, including nine days in intensive care, before beginning an an intensive programme of rehabilitation at the Injured Jockeys’ Fund (IJF) Oaksey House in Lambourn
“The hospital saved her life, “ said Mr Hancock. “And I went through what so many families go through and it really brought home to me just how important the NHS is and, that at times of real need, it is always there." He said he was also very grateful for the support his sister had had from the IJF.
Paying tribute to the charity which has its headquarters in Newmarket, Mr Hancock said he was delighted it had started work on a new state-of-the art rehabilitation centre, to be named Peter O’Sullevan House at the town’s British Racing School in Snailwell Road.
Now responsible for an annual budget of £125 billion he said: “My job is to make sure the money is well spent, improving services and reaching the front line.”
Earlier, Mr Hancock gave his first major policy speech at West Suffolk Hospital where he praised staff and said he wanted to see some of the hospital’s digital initiatives spread across the country.