HASLEMERE MP and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt set out his position on key town concerns and his hopes for 2017 in an interview last Friday – including Surrey County Council’s “social care crisis” – following our report that Tory leader David Hodge had called on the county’s 11 Conservative MPs to lobby for far more central government funding to ensure the local authority can care for vulnerable residents.

Mr Hunt responded: “I know it is an exceptionally difficult situation and I have a great deal of sympathy for Surrey. Both David Hodge and his deputy leader Peter Martin have kept me fully informed of the precariousness of the situation.

“As Health Secretary, I am aware of the key issues facing the county. Whatever the pressures, we have to make sure we look after our most vulnerable residents.

“I appreciate the three per cent increase just announced by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is a step in the right direction.

“But our Prime Minister Theresa May has said we need to make fundamental changes in the long term.

“People will need to save for their social care much as they do for their pension as many are finding social care a considerable expense in the last years of their lives.

“One of my hopes for 2017 is to find a solution to the social care issues in Surrey.”

Stroke patients face “fatal” delay

Waverley borough councillor Robert Knowles has condemned an “interim” NHS measure operation that will see people with suspected strokes taken to Frimley Park Hospital and St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, from January 9, as potentially “fatal” due to a toxic combination of slow ambulance response times and longer journeys.

Mr Hunt said: “Robert Knowles is a formidable campaigner. But in the bigger picture the NHS is saving more lives by improving stroke care by making services more centralised.

“It may take people a little longer to get there but they will get better treatment as consultants will be available 24/7 treating multiple stroke victims.

“It’s better for people in Haslemere to be treated in a hyper acute stroke unit and get the latest treatment around the clock.

“The issue is more about ambulance response times and the geographic area Haslemere is in, which is a particular problem for South East Coast Ambulance Service.

“It’s very important when this change goes ahead that people can have absolute confidence there will be priority for the most serious cases, of which stroke is one. It does depend on getting to a hospital quickly.”

‘Community hospital expansion on hold due to cuts’

Mr Hunt said: “There is increasing pressure on A&E departments and we need to make sure there are places to discharge people to.

“For people in the town, Haslemere Hospital is ideal and people discharged there are much more likely to recover more quickly.

“I think Haslemere Hospital has a bright future as it is very important for the community and it is fantastically convenient it has a GP surgery on site. It’s a model hospital.

“This is a challenging period for the NHS because there is so much additional demand.

“In the long term, NHS reforms will be agreed to enhance community care.”

Waverley’s Draft Local Plan to build 10,000 houses by 2032

Mr Hunt said: “I have mixed feelings about the increased housing target, as someone who grew up in a Surrey village.

“But I have changed my mind in recent years because I have met so many Haslemere residents whose children and grandchildren are unable to get on the housing ladder.

“We need more houses but it has to be done in a sustainable way with appropriate development in the infrastructure.

“If we don’t build more homes, much of the area will become impossible for our young people to live in and that would be a huge shame.

MP’s hopes for 2017

Mr Hunt said: “2016 has seen massive change both nationally and internationally with a new prime minister, a new relationship with Europe and a new American president.

“My hope is we resolve the things that really matter to our country and bring our country back together again afterwards.

“It’s important we implement what the British people decided but we need to do so in a way that maintains our position as the world’s greatest trading nation, open to ideas from all over the world.

“With my NHS hat on, I would like to thank my brilliant staff. Many in Haslemere are working over Chrsitmas and they have never worked harder than they do now because the pressure of an ageing population is increasing demand for NHS services.

“One of the things I hope for is to tackle better social isolation and the loneliness of people living on their own. We have some brilliant local voluntary organisations who work to do just that. We need to support them.”