Horsham District Older Peoples Forum

MP Question Time Events

The next HDOPF MP Question Time event will be on Friday 6th November 2020

Andrew Griffith MP for Arundel & South Downs (newly elected December 2019) has kindly agreed to be our guest MP. 

10 am tea/coffee. Meeting 10.30am - 1pm. Please email: hdopforum@gmail.com to register for your place and submit any question(s) you have in advance to allow a fair range of questions. 

Venue: ground floor main conference room, Council offices, Parkside, Chart Way, Horsham

Jeremy Quin MP joined us to answer our questions at the Council offices, Parkside, Horsham on Friday 16th November 2018

Notes of the meeting are here

Attendance at any HDOPF meeting is free and open to anyone aged 60 or above who lives in the Horsham District or cares for someone who is, or any Neighbourhood, Parish, District, County councillors or anyone involved with older people in a professional capacity. Anyone who would like to attend our public meetings is asked to email/call to reserve a place to help us with numbers attending.

If you have a question on older people's issues come along to our next meeting or please email us hdopforum@gmail.com or horshamolderpeoplesforum@gmail.com

Sample of Questions sent in for asking Jeremy Quin MP 2018:

1.  Brexit is causing many elderly people to worry that there will be a disaster when the UK leaves next March. Can you reassure us that life will go on relatively normally and that the elderly or anyone else will not be at risk i.e. through lack of prescription medicines and lack of care workers? 

2.  The increase in the elderly population will lead to us being 25% of the population in the not too distant future and is already being cited as the reason for the huge additional burden and cost to the NHS and thus the taxpayer. What long-term action is the government taking to plan for the increase in the elderly population and their life needs? 

3.  Whilst the rise in the elderly is cited as being the cause of a huge drain on the NHS,  the population is also increasing by 270,000+ through immigration a year. Surely that amount of extra people must have an effect on the provision and cost to the taxpayer for health services, education, housing etc. Why isn’t that being mentioned? What plans does the government have to cope with it?

4.  I am worried that the NHS is crumbling due to the burden both financially and bed wise, of older people who are regarded as ‘bed blockers’ because they cannot be discharged from hospital due to lack of local authority services, to enable care packages to be put in place. What is the government doing about this? 

5.  My wife and I paid National Insurance all our working lives. My wife now has dementia and I was her full-time carer, she is now in a nursing home. I was led to believe that the NI contributions we both fully paid meant that our health care would be looked after from ‘cradle to grave.’ I have found little help for me or my wife outside of our front door and I have had to pay for 2 wheelchairs, a stair lift, Dementia Club daycare fees and now nursing home fees for my wife, all out of income that has already been taxed. Is it not possible to at least get tax relief on such expenses?  

6.  Will tighter immigration rules including non-EU and EU after Brexit mean a huge shortage of nurses and other care staff i.e. for care homes? There is already a shortage of carers. What hope can you offer that this will not get even worse after Brexit when such low skilled (by immigration definition) workers from Europe who prop up our system now, no longer come? 

7.  Many retired people have left the UK for the sun and are living full time or as ‘swallows’ in EU countries i.e. Spain. What effect will leaving the EU have on them? Will this lead to many having to return to the UK i.e. because of the loss of free healthcare? 

8. Horsham Town Community Partnership with Horsham District Older Persons Forum and Age UK Horsham District are currently providing free safety training to mobility scooter users in Horsham Town centre.  If the project is a success, we intend to provide training throughout Horsham District.  Does the government anytime in the future intend to make it compulsory for mobility scooter riders to undertake a competency test and/or have adequate insurance?Is this local initiative one that you would support? 

 9.  The number of mobility scooter users is now estimated to be 350,000 in the UK and with the number of fatalities and major injuries continues to rise, has the Government any plans to introduce compulsory driving standards and mandatory insurance cover? If not would the government consider launching a publicity initiative to focus on driving mobility scooters more slowly and recognising that pedestrians have right of way at all times? In view of the number of accidents involving mobility scooters - we would ask you to champion our cause and press the government to initiate a publicity drive to encourage safer driving.  

10.The current system for drivers on reaching 70 is for them to simply ‘self-certify’ that they are fit to drive. Should there not be a statutory system put in place to check health, eyesight and driving competence on a regular basis? Should it not be compulsory for doctors, opticians and other health professionals to report anyone who they suspect is no longer fit to drive or operate a vehicle?  

11. When will our representatives at Westminster from all parties stop using the NHS as a political football and act collectively in the interests of the general public?  In other words, why won't all parties commit to a Royal Commission to analyse the NHS's obvious structural, organisational and financial problems and make recommendations for creating a body that is fit for purpose in delivering modern health services and social care?     

12.  Several companies providing domiciliary and residential care for older people have been struggling financially after many local authorities reacted to a squeeze on budgets by cutting the fees that they pay for care and raising the thresholds that elderly people must meet to qualify for care funding. What is the government doing to ensure that that LA’s have sufficient funds for such care? 

13. My wife is in a nursing home, having been diagnosed with Altzheimers in 2011. She was self-funding for the first year and parted with £60,000+. West Sussex took over in March 2017 with me contributing a weekly top-up of £100. The Conservative party was promising a cap on the amount people must pay towards care home fees. What has happened about that after the Chancellor of the Exchequer dropped the promise? 

14.  Can the Government ensure that there are telephone helplines for all Government departments (and essential services) i.e. HMRC, to be able to pay a bill on the telephone for those that cannot use a computer and pay online?   

15. Local branches of national banks are closing at an ever-increasing rate leaving our local villages without banking services i.e. Billingshurst where Santander closed 5 years ago, Barclays closed November 2017, Lloyds closed 16th May 2018 & Natwest Bank 30th May 18. Do our national banks owe the public a moral duty, in the wider public interest, to provide an accessible local banking service? The backstop is the local Post Offices which have also seen a steady decline in recent years and are often too small to provide an efficient service. 

16. There are large housing developments being (i.e. Wickhurst Green, Highwood) or going to be built (North of Horsham) in the District. Developers promise infrastructure i.e. schools, GP surgeries, railway stations and affordable housing but are apparently able to get around supplying that. Also, where are the trained support workers (i.e. teachers, police, fire, ambulance, nurses, local authority staff etc. etc.) expected to come from and be able to afford to live? 

17. Horsham is being subject to massive housing developments. On the west of Horsham, the Berkeley and Countryside developments are creating several thousand new homes, the approved North of Horsham development will create several thousand more. The redevelopment of sites such as the former Novartis main site in Wimblehurst Rd for both housing and the creation of a business park, plus the redevelopment of the former Novartis staff car parking site in Parsonage Rd for housing are also examples of large-scale developments.

However, nothing is being done to address the existing transport and road infrastructure to enable the town to cope with the vastly increased traffic. At peak times most main routes into and out of the town are gridlocked with tailbacks blocking junctions. The air pollution created by this must have a huge impact on residents health. Can I ask how the government is going to address such issues?

18. Could the next election be won or lost on the social media platform, as it appears that if a 'thought' grabs the public mood, it can motivate/influence persons state of mind - especially, it seems the younger person?’ 

19. Mobility scooters, wheelchairs, visually impaired are frequently hampered by vehicles parked either partially or completely blocking the footpath. Action to fine such motorists is no longer in the hands of the police and getting worse. With the advent of electric vehicles and the need to plug them into an electric socket, this pavement obstruction will get worse. Will the government reconsider creating new simple offences with greater enforcement powers to the police and local authorities? What happened following the 10th February 2016 Briefing Paper ‘Pavement and on-street parking in England’?   

20. Should people who have reached state retirement age but still working, continue to pay NI contributions to help pay for social care? 

21. There are very few jobs with large employers in Horsham or the surrounding district anymore.  This has led to people travelling long distances to find work.  Where are the jobs going to come from for our young people/ relatives? 

22. A particular aspect of transport for older people that concerns us is the far from easy journey by public transport to East Surrey Hospital, involving either train/bus ( approx. 1 hour) or bus/bus (approx. 1hour 40 minutes ) My question is, does Mr Quin agree that these timings are unacceptable for older and sometimes frail people, especially as a change is involved on either route. If he does, would he support a campaign for a direct service from Horsham even if a modest charge was involved?  

23. Older people like having easy access to toilets - fear of not being able to use facilities can frighten people into being housebound and more isolated. While Billingshurst has a public facility most rural villages do not. Can you provide any relief (practical solutions) to the problem? 

23. Why does the government’s planning framework not require more accessible home building i.e. bungalows to facilitate older people downsizing?      

Questions put to Nick Herbert MP March 2017

Q1. Following a Government objective for 2010 - 2015, stating that ‘We live in an increasingly digital world, everything from providing services to social interaction is changing’Has any provision been made to assist and support our elderly community with this technology?I feel that education and knowledge of the digital world could really have a positive impact on loneliness and social isolation. 

Q2. Why isn’t there a Commissioner for Older people as there is in Wales & Northern Ireland? 

Q3. Will he make representation and press for an increase in the basic pension of £1.00 per week for us pensioners as the Council and County Council, and P.C.C. are increasing our Council Tax and we will have that amount less, to spend on food, heat and light?(I do not consider that the amount of increase by the triple lock covers such creeping taxation) 

Q4. Can those on the triple lock pension, retain this formula unless and until a more financially beneficial to them is in force?

Q5. Could he offer his views on the future funding of bus passes? 

Q6. What is the way forward for funding post- hospital/geriatric care? 

Q7. What interest/knowledge does he have in the failed Ambulance Service P T S contract (Patient Transport Service) and its replacement arrangement? 

Q8. Is there any point in answering MP’s questions if they only answer with what they want to answer instead?

 Q9. How do we properly and fairly fund care homes?   

Q10. Care/Nursing homes are typically in larger buildings, which have increased in value significantly in the last 7 years. In addition to reduced council funding and the introduction of the living wage these businesses are now facing significant increases in business rates. This is at the same time as we have a rapidly increasing older population. In Pulborough we are expecting an increase in the number of over 65s of more than 50 per annum over the next 15 years. What can be done to ensure that the provision of care/nursing homes increases rather than decreases in a time of increasing need?

 Q11. At present, it is difficult for older people in the community to obtain care/cleaning services in their own homes - there has been a shortage of staff in both areas for a few years, and this shortfall is getting noticeably worse. This sector is critically reliant on overseas workers, whether it be Polish/Lithuanian cleaners or Filipina care assistants. How can we best ensure that the supply of these workers does not fall, and that needs in the community can be catered for? 

Q12. This is with a background of low pensioner incomes = around 1/4 of pensioners have no work-based pension; and an article in the Sunday Telegraph around the end of January 2016 gave the statistic that the average (not the median) pension pot was around £15,000, which buys an annuity of around £500/annum at current rates. So, the amount a typical pensioner can afford is typically for less hours than they need. Would it help to attract younger, British people into these increasingly necessary professions if it was made clearer that the customer handling skills they would gain through this work could give useful experience for entering other industries later in their career? 

Q13. What can the government do to ensure that we have truly affordable housing for essential workers in the communities we live in? The target is for people on less than the median wage (around £24k) to have reasonable quality rental accommodation. Vehicles such as community land trusts are unlikely to be able to meet more than 10% of the current need.    

Q14. As local authorities are having to keep their budgets under strict control and services that the local authorities provide are being cut back or got rid of, what can LA’s & the Government do to help promote more community involvement in helping to maintain the environment where we live? At the moment, there seems to be a total lack of enthusiasm from communities to get involved with looking after the area where they live. There needs to be more of a mindset that we should all help take care of our locality. This is in terms of litter picking in the street where we live, sweeping up the pavement outside our house, looking out for our neighbours, for instance. If local authorities and government could help promote more of this mindset, it would help keep the area where we live looking cared for, help create community spirit, help a ‘working together for the common good attitude’ and also help keep local authority budgets under control. If this type of attitude could be part of ‘Live Skills’ classes in school, it would be really advantageous and help young people growing up realising that you have to put something back and not just think it’s the problem of someone else. 

Q15. What is the government doing to ensure that there are enough UK trained doctors and nurses in the NHS to meet the demand, to enable 7 day GP working and reduce the huge cost for locum doctors & nurses? 

Q16. Certain drug companies have taken advantage of being sole suppliers and raised their prices by enormous amounts (for the NHS). What is being done to stop that?

 Q17. Can Mr Herbert reassure us that older people will not be put to the back of the queue by the government for resources because they don’t complain enough?  

Q18. Today (22/2/17) I telephoned the surgery for an appointment for me with my preferred doctor and the earliest I could get was 27th March! If I had taken another doctor, the earliest would still have been 9th March. My question is – what provision is being made in the locality for GP availability given the high level of development in the area, mostly with properties that are family-sized and will, therefore, need to register with a GP and require appointments, a number of which may be urgent?  It is not always easy to attend walk-in centres if you have to rely on public transport when you are already unwell.  Consistency of treatment is not possible if you are unable to see the same doctor twice.  This raises issues of confidence in the treatment being received. (Different doctors will have different approaches). 

Q19. With the increased age that those born pre-1954 are required to work until, what is being done to assist them back into work when necessary? Example – I took early retirement in 2010 to care full time for my elderly mother.  When I could no longer do so because of my own health issues she moved into a nursing home.  I started looking for part-time employment which proved difficult given my age and disability.  I spent two years looking for something suitable before finally finding my current fixed term contract job.  As my pension took me beyond the amount that would make me eligible for job seekers allowance, I could not access training or other facilities available through the jobcentre unless I ‘signed on’ which seemed to be a waste of their time and mine when I was not getting any benefits (other than NI payments).  I spent several weeks attending the jobcentre where I was threatened with my benefits (that I didn’t get) being stopped if I didn’t attend.  I ultimately did find a job, under my own steam without their assistance, but it is frustrating that there must be a lot of people in the same position trying to do the right thing but most employers are not keen to take the risk of taking on older workers who have been out of the workplace for several years with the added issue of a disability, despite many years of experience and knowledge. 

Q20. Why are members of the Lords allowed to claim £300 just for clocking in & then leaving?  

Q21. 5 years ago my husband had to wait 6 months to see a cardiologist. It would have been 9 months if we had not made a fuss. Now I am waiting to see a cardiologist as well and my appointment is still 4 1/2 months from the time I was referred. This is disgusting that nothing has changed in this time. Are they hoping that some people will die before their appointments, thus bringing the waiting list down?

Q22. What can be done about the poor bus services available to get to hospitals such as East Surrey at Redhill? Are our MPs and senior councillors working with the bus company’s to find a way of accessing all our hospitals? So many people have difficulty finding transport and neighbours to help but still able to be independent if this would happen.     


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