My Thanks to Our Hospitals Trust

webbuilder_thumb_New%20GRH%20EntranceI think our NHS Glos Hospitals Trust is due a big thank you. They coped, from all accounts I’ve had so far, brilliantly during the two days strike (including emergency car) by junior doctors this week. I’m very grateful to consultants, nurses and everyone else who dealt with A&E cases and other difficult situations so well.

At the same time the Trust has published its accounts for last year and the directors and managers deserve congratulations for finishing the year with a £900,000 surplus, rather than the dire losses many hospitals trusts have run up. Retiring Chief Executive Frank Harsent leaves the Trust in good state.

You cannot open a paper without reading the word ‘crisis’ next to the NHS, but what both the handling of the junior doctors strike and the year long management of the business of our two hospitals (GRH & Cheltenham) show is that we are very fortunate to have really dedicated staff on all fronts here in Glos.

Of course I get complaints from constituents about this and that, and sometimes serious mistakes do happen, but by and large we are very fortunate. We should never take that for granted: almost all the countries I’ve lived in have nothing remotely like our NHS.

Lastly the issue of the moment is of course the junior doctors strike and how it gets resolved. My constituents DO need an effective 7 day service, otherwise A&E waiting times will increase and weekend mortality rates will go on being higher than they should be. The only outstanding issue in the negotiations, according to the NHS, is whether Saturday pay should be at usual rates between 0900-1700. I hope this can be agreed soon, that doctors can focus on patients not strikes and that this can happen with salaries that are good for doctors but also affordable for the NHS and taxpayers.

This issue is one of money and I hope agreement is reached soon. Meanwhile the new contracts come into effect this summer and I simply do not believe the idea that all junior doctors, who by the way have each received about £300,000 of taxpayer funded training, are all going to emigrate to jobs in Australia unless they get special pay during Saturday daytime.

There are lots of doctors who are not happy about a very political element in the BMA, want to get on with treating patients, and do not see further strikes – including emergency care – as a solution. They are absolutely right, and I look forward to ALL junior doctors in the GRH back in full time work, with everyone else there, and continuing to deliver a high quality service to patients all over our county.

Looking ahead, my next Health Facebook will be about skills, and how we can increase them locally here in Glos so that we don’t have to import our nurses.

Kingsway Surgery Good News

With Rosebank Practice at the site of their new GP surgery

Good news on the long running saga of the future new GPs surgery in Kingsway.

Finally the GP practice (Rosebank) and developer have reached agreement. What’s called the Heads of Terms – basically the main ingredients of a full detailed legal agreement – has been approved by both sides, and their respective lawyers now get on with fleshing out everything else into a full legal agreement.

The Heads of Terms have taken about three years so this is a major step forward and there is no particular reason that either side is expecting for the lawyers to delay the next step. After that there’ll be a formal consultation at the end of May followed by a planning application and then construction of what will be a huge GPs surgery – with up to a hundred staff.

Meanwhile, because planning approval and construction could easily take 18 months, Rosebank is also continuing detailed talks with site owners the County Council and others on taking part of the park n ride as a temporary site for the new surgery.

This is important because a temporary site would enable my constituents in Kingsway and Quedgeley to get additional access to GPs well before the new surgery is open.

So things are moving forward promisingly, and the consultation is a further chance for all readers to encourage site owners, GP practice, developer and County Council all to play their part in making the new Kingsway GP surgery happen as soon as possible.

As soon as I have more news I’ll post it on Facebook.

Best regards

A Test Case for Community Solutions – The Curious Case of the Ridge & Furrow

With Secret Garden Nursery owner Charlie Perkins at the Ridge

With Secret Garden Nursery owner Charlie Perkins at the Ridge

Why does an MP get involved in the future of a pub that’s already closed?

That’s the question I asked myself over two years ago, when I read about Morrisons supermarket’s announcement of their decision to apply for a petrol station on the site of the ex Ridge & Furrow pub.

The answer was that I didn’t believe a ‘study’ by their consultant claiming residents were resolutely behind this idea. It was partly that the site is not ideal for a petrol station – beside a popular GPs’ surgery and a stream, raising questions about run off and environmental pollution, and partly because this wasn’t what residents were telling me on the doorstep.

So I did my own survey to thousands of residents, with a very high response rate, which confirmed my suspicions with almost 70% against. This destroyed the supermarket case that the petrol station was wanted.

So the scene was set for a planning battle – in fact several battles, including an appeal. All were lost by Morrisons, the last appeal only recently. We – principally a good combination of motivated residents, dedicated Councillors and a planning expert giving his time free of charge – got the pub listed as an asset of community value: the City Council did its objective job well and the right result was reached (even if I thought for the wrong reasons, but let’s not go there).

Victory? Only in a negative sense. Almost three years on the site is still boarded up, the car park blocked by rocks, the garden untended and no-one living in Abbey can be proud of that. Having got involved in the principle of local feeling, I didn’t, and don’t, think I can walk away at this stage from residents who feel ‘OK, what now?’

I feel an obligation to work with those opposed to a petrol station to find what would be good, and to get a solution. The starting point was Morrisons. So I’ve been in contact and am delighted that this week, after a few mails and a conversation, the supermarket has confirmed that they have no plan to try again with another planning application for a petrol station. That’s a welcome step forward and I’m grateful to the supermarket for confirming it.

The next point is then what the community think would be a popular solution. I have have had suggestions of a nursery from several operators, and the concept of a nursery as well as a pub or family restaurant from Charlie Perkins of the Secret Garden, a stunning Eastgate St. nursery.

Morrisons is not selling the site, so there is no opportunity at the moment for a community buy-out. Trust Inns remains the lessee, which means dealing with them. And as my father (who has been in the pub business for a long time) said, there probably isn’t enough to feed three mouths – landlord, lessee and a tenant manager.

At this stage a sensible MP would probably be slipping away from the battlefield – announcing victory, and letting others try and untangle the future. But I don’t feel I can do that. Victory is when a viable business provides a useful new service to the local Abbeydale and Abbeymead community, pays a commercial rent to the landlord and earns a decent living at the old Ridge & Furrow. We’re still a long way from that.

So the next stage is:

1. Seeing who might be interested in establishing a business there (ideas please, even though no specification or rent details are available)

2. Hearing what residents would most value (ditto: ideas please)

3. Discussing with Trust Inns their plans and interest in the site

I will write to Trust Inns on that point, although they weren’t very forthcoming last time I contacted them, and something tells me this is going to need intervention high up. If that’s what it takes then so be it. This Jack Russell doesn’t give up easily.

Meanwhile, if you know of an interesting business looking for a new hub in a great location, then do let me know. I hope there will be enough interest for a community meeting before long.

This is all taking time: is it worthwhile? I think so, but I’m conscious that we are all impatient nowadays, and I share any frustration readers may have. The good news is that we are now over the petrol station phase of the site and can focus on a bold alternatives.

Let me know your thoughts on solutions on

Best regards

Gloucester and Cheltenham MPs launch stalking sentencing campaign in Parliament

IMG_1767 - CopyRichard Graham MP and Alex Chalk MP hosted a discussion in Parliament on Tuesday to address issues around stalking sentences. Minister for Sentencing Dominic Raab MP gave his thoughts on the MPs’ campaign to extend the maximum sentence for stalking, currently at only five years’ imprisonment. The MPs published a report on their research findings to support their campaign.

Dominic Raab MP said: “I think the moral point made about what a heinous crime this is, is well and truly registered. There is an understanding in the system that this is a problem that needs to be gripped more strongly.

There is clearly an issue about whether the sentencing at the very serious end really reflects the underlying criminality. So that’s something I want to go away and look at very carefully. ”

Richard Graham MP said: “I hope that this shows the anti-stalking sector that the government is listening and, with the Minister’s help, we can get this change into law that can help put the most dangerous stalkers away. Because they can be extremely dangerous.”

Dr Ellie Aston spoke on her experience of being stalked for seven years by a former patient. At his sentencing in May 2015, the judge told Ellie to write to her MP and ask for the sentence to be revised because he was frustrated by the small sentence.

Dr Aston said: “A change in the law now will not help my current situation but there is a chance that he will go to prison for longer next time. This law is the only way of keeping me and my family safe, and the other victims of the most dangerous serial stalkers in the country.

Offenders need to be detained for long enough periods of time to be correctly assessed and managed. I need those periods of peace to be able to function as a doctor, mother, wife and friend.”

Her MP Alex Chalk said: “Stalking is a horrible, violating crime. We launched this campaign because it’s become clear to us that the current sentencing regime is wholly inadequate to do justice in the most serious cases.”

Dr Jane Monckton-Smith, a senior criminology lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire spoke about her experience as Chair of Domestic Homicide Review Boards: “100% of the domestic homicides that I have looked at have had coercive control and stalking in the history. This is how important this is. We need to prevent homicides, and responding to stalkers with serious sentencing options may be a very effective tool.”

Laura Richards, Director and Founder of the first and only advocacy service for stalking victims, Paladin, spoke about the real need for the law to be revised four years on. “Please help us protect future victims and increase the sentence for stalkers. We hope that the government is listening to this evidence base for change that would save both lives and money.”

27 Parliamentarians have signed up to support the MPs’ campaign so far and they are hopeful that more will follow as they continue to push for change.



You can read more about the MPs’ campaign, including a copy of their report outlining the issues, on Richard Graham’s website here:

You can also watch a video summary of the event here:

Press Release: City MP calls on Cross Country to live up to its slogan

Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham has today called on Cross Country Trains to live up to its own slogan – ‘Going that bit further’ – and increase its service to Gloucester.

“It is a ludicrous irony that only three out of 63 trains a day on the Inter-City service between the cities of Birmingham and Bristol stop at the city of Gloucester.

“This miserly service, the result of inept renegotiation by the Government in 2006, needs to be beefed up to provide commuters with a decent service. Cross Country needs to live up to its slogan!”

The City MP asked Rail Minister Claire Perry in Transport Questions to confirm if the Department for Transport had included the requirement for more services to Gloucester in their specification to Cross Country Trains.

The Minister paid tribute to Richard’s long campaign, stating “Nobody could be more assiduous in calling for those service requirements” and confirmed that “discussions are ongoing. We have asked Cross Country to report on the best way to deliver the services he is talking about, and I am looking forward to discussing that with him shortly”.

Richard said: “Nothing is certain until the franchise extension is signed and new timetables issued, but it is very encouraging that the Minister has made it clear to Cross Country what it needs to do.”

The MP encouraged everyone to sign his petition on “The more people that sign it the better the chance of maintaining the pressure on government and train operator alike.”

Press Release: No petrol station on Ridge & Furrow says MP

City MP Richard Graham says Morrisons no longer plans to replace the Ridge & Furrow pub at Abbeydale with a petrol station following discussions with Morrisons’ Head of Corporate Services, David Scott.

Richard said: “This welcome decision by Morrisons, which recognises the strength of feeling from the City Council planning committee and wider community, paves the way for discussions with Trust Inns and interested parties on other solutions for the former Ridge & Furrow.”

The MP noted that Abbeydale and Abbeymead have popular primary schools, and large numbers of young families: “A very good solution for the Ridge & Furrow might be a family-friendly pub restaurant, combined with a nursery.

“Demand outstrips supply for nursery places, and there is enough space for both restaurant and nursery.”

Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service Gets Recognition


Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service (GHES), run by the County Council for those children in hospital who can’t attend school, has been shortlisted as a finalist for the Times Educational Supplement’s alternative provision school of the year award 2016.

The dedication of GHES teaching assistant Emma Stevenson has also been recognised – she’s shortlisted and is a finalist for the Pearson Teaching Awards for teaching assistant of the year.

We all want the best possible education for our children, without health being a barrier, so I’m pleased that this good service is available at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. Congratulations to GHES and Emma for being shortlisted.

Press Release: City MP welcomes manufacturing links with China

Gloucester MP said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Elmbridge-based Helipebs Controls Ltd. to supply hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders to Chinese company Jiangsu Jinshi Group (JMP) should prove “a good step forward for Helipebs’ exports to China and a good example of the quality of Made in Gloucester products”.

The MoU, the result of efforts by Gloucestershire-based ‘Join in China’ who support British exporters, was signed at a ceremony in North Warehouse attended by political and business figures from both countries.

Richard was joined by City Council Leader Paul James, Sheriff of Gloucester Jim Beeley and Helipebs Chairman Geoff Davis. JMP MD Luo Jinying was accompanied by Zhang Hongyan, Mayor of the Chinese city Karamay.

Richard commented: “I hope the MoU now translates into actual sales as soon as possible, with Made in Gloucester cylinders part of Jiangsu Jinshi’s supply chain”.

What next for the Fleece Hotel?

Gloucester - Fleece Hotel - Monks Retreat

Everyone who remembers its medieval undercroft, or Monk’s Retreat, as a bar in the city centre would love to see the Fleece thriving again as a boutique hotel.

The Fleece ran into terrible financial problems and was taken on by the now abolished South West Regional Development Agency or RDA. It was then transferred with various other RDA assets, on my strong recommendation, to the City Council for a song. The Council has done the most important thing – which was to keep the property dry and prevent it from falling down.

However there is now private sector interest and the city would benefit from a complete regeneration of the site. The City Council did a great job winning some money via our LEP to do preparatory work on Blackfriars. A detailed survey by Butler Hegarty Architects is currently underway, assessing its heritage value and likely cost to be brought back into use.

This should be complete by November, and I would this captivating building to be bought soon after.

Photo: Ian Ormerod - NCR (National Cash Register) Retirement Fellowship

Trade and Investment Opportunities at the UK ‪‎Indonesia‬ Business Forum


Yesterday I discussed mutual future trade and investment opportunities at the UK ‪‎Indonesia‬ Business Forum. My theme was to encourage Indonesia to be bold in her reforms and new drive for Openness and Competition. Also on the panel was Indonesian Minister of Trade Tom Lembong, Pak Roeslani, Chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Michael Lawrence, CEO of Asia House.

Minister Tom Lembong and I then witnessed the signing or announcement of $18 billion of UK investment commitments to the world’s fourth most populated country.

The future of the UK will depend greatly on our involvement in the world’s growth economies – and that definitely includes Indonesia. Already some of our largest companies – Prudential, BT, GSK, Rolls Royce and HSBC are generating significant revenues from their business with Indonesia, and British pensioners are benefiting from the dividends, just as Indonesia benefits from the jobs and growth that investment generates. There is much more to be done – and not just by large companies – which is why I’ll be talking about this in Gloucester with Business West this Friday.

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