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Focus for me has been on health

It’s the turn of Green Party West Norfolk Councillor Pallavi Devulapalli to write this week’s Friday Politics column...

It's been a busy few weeks at the council and around West Norfolk, and the focus for me has been mostly on health. I had the enormous privilege of being invited, along with my fellow councillors, to a tour of the College of West Anglia School of Nursing this week, given by their passionate and eloquent leader Adrian Debney.

Their state-of-the-art Anatomage Virtual Dissection Table drew gasps from all of us - lay people and clinicians alike. It is truly a thing of beauty, with programs that enable us to see inside the body, with various body layers exposed at the touch of a button, and also to examine the various internal organs. They also have wonderful mannequins that can breathe, bleed and even give birth. Wonderful to practice on for aspiring nurses, midwives and doctors.

Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli joined the Shouldham Community Orchard group of volunteers to make the place tidy, strim and mow the grass and do other odd jobs
Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli joined the Shouldham Community Orchard group of volunteers to make the place tidy, strim and mow the grass and do other odd jobs

We were told this is one of the very few institutions in the country to have these truly world-class facilities available to students and is something we can all take pride in. It gave us hope that we can make Lynn a destination for students to aspire to study, from far and wide.

Dentistry on the other hand is something we are sorely missing in West Norfolk. While the council is going to pull out all the stops to make the area attractive to dentists, it's clear to me following a briefing from Toothless in England, a campaigning organisation, that the real fault is with the NHS dental contract which is so bad that NHS dentists are forced to do private work to make ends meet. The situation will only start to be remedied when the contract is changed to pay dentists fairly for what they do. Please follow the campaign and add your voice so we can bring about these much-needed changes.

I represent the Borough Council on the Health Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) in Norwich. At the last committee meeting, we discussed the report on unexpected deaths in Norfolk and Suffolk, and the mental health providers had a chance to say what they would be doing about it. Due to the number of years that these issues have been ongoing and the lack of action taken following previous reports, the committee called for a statutory inquiry into these deaths among other things. While tribute was paid to the hard-working clinicians and managers at the trust, it would have been remiss of us not to ask for a thorough investigation into what happened and why, so that it never happens again.

In other news, at our last council meeting, we had some stimulating discussions around staff pay awards with various nuanced arguments flying back and forth. My own opinion was that the Cabinet recommendation should be adhered to, as it had been through a full consultation with staff and their unions, and fortunately for staff, that’s what was agreed in the end.

Putting Pride on the annual calendar of events for Lynn was another item that took up a lot of time. There were touching speeches by members who narrated their personal experiences of being discriminated against due to their identities and the symbolism of Pride. The motion was passed by an overwhelming majority, with one councillor voting against it, and that reinforced the fact that discrimination is still there in some people’s hearts and minds. There is clearly still work to be done to ensure everyone gets treated with respect and dignity.

I was invited to attend the National Rural Conference for councillors, where I learnt that there is a volume of evidence that rural areas receive less funding and less development support from government. In our own borough, bus services to the villages are quite patchy and variable. This then means that people who do not/cannot drive are basically restricted to where they go out and when they go out.

I feel that we can un-tap a lot of potential within West Norfolk by improving public transport, and making all of the region accessible to everyone. More frequent, cheaper and more accessible buses connecting our villages and market towns will mean more people can get about and access education, training, work, and fun activities. Parents wouldn’t need to chauffeur their teenagers to friends, hobbies, college etc. People would be able to access their healthcare appointments or go to the cinema. If we had buses running in the evenings, we could have more people visiting our restaurants, theatres and pubs. As always with these things, there are a number of players involved (county council, bus companies, central govt, passengers etc) which means it will take time to achieve all of this but I think it important to set out the vision, so we know what the end-goal is.

I joined the Shouldham Community Orchard group of volunteers to make the place tidy, strim and mow the grass and do other odd jobs. Always a fun and pleasurable experience.

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