Parliament has returned and we start 2017 with the clear message from the Prime Minister that the UK will have triggered Article 50 by the end of March.  As we count down towards this and the Government honours the decision of June 23rd, we must do so constructively, encouraging the coming together of both sides of the debate.  Above all let’s get on with this and work towards delivering the best deal for our country.

Meanwhile there is much debate and news coverage of the NHS and in particular the challenges at this time of year.  With a sister who works as a nurse I know just how hard our NHS and healthcare staff work, and not just in winter.  As a country we face many challenges: an ageing population, an increasing population and, of course, the availability of many more new life saving treatments and options than ever before.

All these factors place challenges and pressures on the NHS, its staff and its resources, and the impact in particular of an ageing population has been discussed with me by some of our local GPs.  Getting through the winter has to be a priority but alongside this is the need to develop effective and integrated health and social care.  Money is an important factor, but we kid ourselves if we say that it is the only factor. It is also about making progress on safety, standards and quality and, above all continuing to value the NHS for all that it does.

Back in the constituency I have held the first of my regular surgeries for 2017 in Aldridge and, like last year, I will be holding additional surgeries around the constituency in Brownhills, Pelsall and Streetly.

However – I can’t end my column without a mention for Aldridge Youth Theatre and their fantastic production of Jack and the Beanstalk.  There was no sign of first night nerves, just lots of pantomime fun and enthusiasm from a cast of colourful characters.  From the very unique Dame Durden, to the adorable ‘Daisy’ the cow and of course Fairy Legume, you were all absolutely brilliant – well done!

If you haven’t been to see the show yet, it runs until next Friday, 27th January.