Ladies and Gentlemen,
I just wanted to say briefly before we leave, how inspiring it has been to listen and to learn about all your work today and to hear from Dr Stewart Smith and each of you about all of the wonderful things that you are trying to do here in St Austell.
We have heard a lot recently about the heroic work being done in hospitals during this pandemic crisis, but I believe it is now also time to thank those of you in General Practice and Primary Care for the heroic work that you have all been doing and performing within your communities. I must say, I have nothing but immense praise for doctors and nurses, but what strikes me most is how this vital work is part of a vast team effort and I am so grateful for this opportunity to meet with those other members of the team:- the receptionist, practice manager, allied health professional, practitioner in mental health, social worker, volunteer and those working in the voluntary sector and, of course, those working in care and nursing homes. This nation owes each and every one of you, here and everywhere else, an immense debt of gratitude.
If I may say so, I have been particularly impressed to learn about the work you have been doing here in St Austell during this pandemic – how for instance, you have created all sorts of virtual systems of communication that are linking the most vulnerable with a vast range of sources of help from the health service and volunteers. What we are witnessing here I think, is a whole community working together to help each other. You are a shining example of what is possible and, I need hardly mention, of what we should continue to strive for when this dreadful virus is over.
Covid 19 apart, I also want to congratulate you here in St Austell for your success in developing, or perhaps I should say resuscitating, General Practice! I hear all too often about general practices facing awful challenges and some GP practices having to close altogether. Here you have managed to turn the closure of one GP practice a few years ago into a real opportunity to bring all of General Practice in St Austell together and to offer many extra services that were needed, especially of course, around mental health. The proof of the pudding, I can see for myself, is your telling me that this was once a town that had problems recruiting GPs and other staff, and that this is no longer the case.
That brings me finally to social prescription – which is something that I have supported and spoken about for many years. Here in St Austell you were pioneering social prescription well before it was national policy, and so meeting Hayley Burgoyne and her team today has been, for me, a most heartening experience. They are living proof, if it was ever needed, that beyond our conventional medicines and procedures there are so many other interventions that can contribute to our health, wellbeing and healing.
I understand that St Austell is also a well-deserved test bed site for the Institute for Social Prescribing hosted by the South West Academic Health Science Network. This new Institute, I hear, aims to develop, test and spread new ideas in social prescription. That seems to me to be such an effective way of exploring the huge potential of social prescribing - using the wisdom of those who, like yourselves, are the pioneers in this immensely important and fast-developing field of the health service.
The work that you are doing here with an emphasis on the psychosocial as well as the biomedical, mobilising the whole community and exploring the limits of how we can help each other, is surely a lesson to us all? I really am so delighted to see St Austell and Cornwall leading the charge on how we can create healthy, sustainable local communities and I can only say that what I have seen and heard today gives me enormous hope for the future. So, well done Ladies and Gentlemen, many congratulations and thank you for setting a wonderful example to everybody else. Thank you.