In the first 6 months as your MP, I have tried to get across the 200 square miles of our constituency on a regular basis.
Every week, and most days during recess, I visit schools, charities, businesses, councils, public services and constituents in their own homes. Unfortunately, my ankle and leg are now in plaster over Christmas so I will have to slow down a little having ruptured my achilles whilst playing football with the Parliamentary team.
My injury means that I will be in plaster for a month, on crutches for a further two months and, I hope, fully fit by 6 months. On the plus side, this has given me the opportunity to fully appreciate being a patient in the NHS and what it is like to have to get around with a physical impairment.
I have been fortunate in that I have never really had any hospital treatment up to now. I have always felt immense pride of our NHS and my recent experience has only strengthened this. The NHS staff, from clinicians to those on reception, were absolutely first class and could not have been kinder or more understanding. I am immensely grateful and it strengthens my resolve to do whatever I can for this great institution and those who work so hard for it. We are lucky to have it and should always seek to praise rather than criticise. I am also well aware that some of the patients come with challenging social difficulties as I witnessed first hand when waiting for treatment. NHS staff should not have to put up with abusive or rude behaviour from patients, that they do so is both depressing and a testimony to their own professionalism. We must do more to help them.
Ironically, I have had to postpone my weekend night shadowing the Conquest’s A&E team. The biggest obstacle I have found is getting from my daily train at London Bridge, via tube, to my office in Parliament. The lifts are never where you need them, if they exist at all. We only get 8 minutes to vote but my office is a half mile walk to the voting chamber. During my journey, I have numerous sets of steep concrete steps to navigate with crutches and no lift at all. The tube and the train tends to be packed and many travellers are in their own iPod world and do not see me when knocking past. Pavements tend to have obstacles in their way. When I visited the De La Warr for its 80th Birthday, the lack of parking enforcement in Bexhill was even more obvious to me than normal. My desire to see parking reform in our towns is now even greater!
Whilst this injury is an impediment to many things I do as an MP, it has given me a valuable insight into the NHS, as a patient, and an insight in to what it is like to have a physical disability with the daily challenges and frustrations which this brings. I am a believer in looking at the positives from every experience and I will use my own to campaign for the NHS and for those who are not able to move around as well as I could a couple of weeks ago.
Finally, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all readers of this great newspaper. It is an immense honour being your MP. Whether I am on my feet, or laid out in plaster, I will do my utmost to deliver for this beautiful constituency.