Wednesday, 12 May 2021

International Nurses Day

Today is International Nurses Day, and after the events of the past year, this year's event means more than ever.

I am incredibly thankful for all of the nurses and healthcare workers who have worked so tirelessly in our NHS throughout the pandemic. Their selfless dedication and commitment to caring for others is extraordinary, and I am very grateful for all they do.

It is brilliant news that their work has inspired others to take up the profession, with 11,000 more nurses, midwives and health visitors now working in the NHS.

Thank you to each and every one of our incredible nurses.




Step 3 of the roadmap- what's changing on Monday 17th May?

The Prime Minister has announced that, on Monday (17th May), the next stage of restrictions will be eased. 

The collective efforts of people across the country and the incredible success of the vaccination programme, through which more than two thirds of adults across the UK have now received a vaccination, mean that the four tests for easing restrictions have all been met. Deaths and hospitalisations are at their lowest level since July and the alert level has been lowered from 4 to 3.

As part of Step 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown restrictions, from Monday the lockdown rules are changing:

  • People can meet in groups of up to 30 outside
  • Six people or two households can meet can meet indoors, and overnight stays are allowed
  • Up to 30 people can attend weddings, receptions and other life events
  • The number of people who can attend a funeral will no longer be capped
  • Care home residents will be allowed up to five named visitors
  • Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants can serve customers indoors
  • Indoor entertainment, eg. museums, theatres and cinemas, can open
  • Sports stadiums can reopen
  • Indoor organised sports and exercise classes can take place 
  • Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen
Please remember to keep getting tested regularly and continue to follow social distancing when not with family and friends. We must remain vigilant and protect all of our hard work by exercising caution and common sense.



Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Vote Stephen Westgarth on Thursday 6th May

On Thursday 6th May, we will all have the chance to vote for the County Councillors who will represent our local towns and villages here in Northumberland.

I have been asking local Conservative candidates across the constituency to set out why they are standing to be County Councillor.

Stephen Westgarth is standing for County Councillor for Bywell.

Northumberland is a beautiful county. Wild woods and moors, beautiful beaches, vibrant city life, and historical villages. There is much to be thankful for, but it's far from a perfect world and life could be better. 


I'm standing for election as Conservative councillor in East Tynedale (Bywell Ward) because I want to make a difference. 


I came to Newcastle University in 1988 to study medicine, and stayed because I love it here. I live in Wylam, where with my wife, weve raised two boys through local schools. I love fishing the Tyne for salmon, and our spending time on our allotment. 

 

My plan for East Tynedale-


1. Coronavirus has hit our community hard, but the vaccine rollout means the end is in sight. I will work with the County Council to support our local businesses so they can bounce back from the pandemic.


2. Roads across Northumberland have seen real improvements over the last four years, but there is always more to do. I will make sure East Tynedale gets its fair share of the £120m road and footpath repair fund.


3. Many residents are concerned about crime and anti-social behaviour locally. I will work with the police and community groups to deliver proper enforcement and on the spot fines with public space protection orders.


4. Friends of the Earth has rated Northumberland as one of the cleanest, greenest councils in

the country. I will work to clean up the Tyne for wildlife, swimmers and fishers, and to make Tynedale a ‘net-zero’ district by 2030.


5. I will work with the police to tackle speeding and pavement parking in our villages and will fight to make sure we get our fair share of the 219 new police officers recruited to the Northumbria Force by the government.


It would be a privilege to represent East Tynedale.  There is no question that it is a challenge but Im committed to working hard for my community to bring about the changes we all want to see.


Vote Conservative on 6th May

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Vote Lyle Darwin on Thursday 6th May

 On Thursday 6th May, we will all have the chance to vote for the County Councillors who will represent our local towns and villages here in Northumberland.

I have been asking local Conservative candidates across the constituency to set out why they are standing to be County Councillor. 

Lyle Darwin is standing for County Councillor for Ponteland East and Stannington.

I’m putting myself forward as the candidate to become the next Conservative County Councillor for Ponteland East and Stannington at the upcoming elections on May 6th, and I want to share with you why I’m standing as a candidate. I have been a Town Councillor in Ponteland for 4 years and I’ve enjoyed my time working with local residents, fellow Town and County councillors and local business owners to make and maintain the great area in which I’m fortunate to live and call home. I believe we, the local residents of Ponteland East and Stannington have a great community which has been able to thrive due to Conservative policies, including that of protecting the greenbelt, supporting local businesses and creating jobs and opportunities for all. I, like many others feel a responsibility to maintain our local area, improve where we can and ensure we pass on our vital greenbelt the next generation for them to enjoy and be able to grow surrounded by greenery and not concrete. We have an obligation as a council to protect and preserve places of outstanding natural beauty and the conservation areas in our local towns. 

My role as an engineer involves reviewing government legislation, deducing the relevant information which can be passed onto the design team and Architect to enable a safe, habitable and functional building fit for purpose by the end users. These skills are transferrable into my role as a councillor, whereby local residents want what is best for our area and we must aim to provide what we can as a party nationally and locally as Northumberland County Council. I will put the needs and concerns of residents first, actively engaging with residents to promote and establish a great community which we are all proud of, irrespective of party politics. We need a County that promotes infrastructure and local jobs, but not the cost of diminishing communities or ruining greenbelt. 

My time as a Town Councillor has allowed me the necessary insight into what being a councillor entails. Taking this to the next level as a County Councillor will allow me to work harder and fight stronger for the policies, ambitions and objectives I would like to deliver. Some of these objectives are already waiting to be resolved, such as the reduction in speeding on station road, Stannington or improving the school drop offs at the new primary school in Ponteland to reduce the issues of parking for local residents who live opposite at Dunsgreen. I have items I’m eager and awaiting to resolve and I look forward to new challenges as they arise which I can work with local councillors in their respective wards to reach an end goal that is best for us all.   

If you would like to contact me about council related matters in Ponteland East and Stannington, please send me an email at lyledarwin@hotmail.co.uk. I look forward to being able to meet with residents when safe to do so.  

Thank you very much in advance and I hope you’re able to vote Conservative on May 6th.  

Stay safe, we should all be able to return to better times soon.

Vote Conservative on 6th May.



Saturday, 1 May 2021

Vote Jan Harding on Thursday 6th May

On Thursday 6th May, we will all have the chance to vote for the County Councillors who will represent our local towns and villages here in Northumberland.

I have been asking local Conservative candidates across the constituency to set out why they are standing to be County Councillor. 

Dr Jan Harding is standing for County Councillor for Haydon and Hadrian.

My name is Jan Harding, and I am the Conservative Party County Council candidate for the wonderful area of Haydon and Hadrian in the forthcoming local elections. I have lived in Allendale for 25 years with my wife and two sons. I consider myself lucky to call Northumberland home. It is a fabulous place to live- and a county whose best years are yet to come.

My professional background is in academia, studying archaeology at the universities of Sheffield and Reading. I became a lecturer in archaeology at Newcastle University back in 1996, undertaking large-scale fieldwork in northern England and publishing six books and over 40 academic papers. I am now retired from the university, but still involved in research and writing.

The people of Haydon and Hadrian deserve the absolute best. First-rate schools, affordable housing, a green and pleasant environment, good roads, decent public transport, and employment opportunities are all essential to life here. Understanding its needs and challenges is vital, and if elected, I intend to hit the ground running. I believe I can make an immediate difference with litter and dog fouling, and will be drawing-up an action-plan for helping deal with these problems. I intend to be equally proactive in addressing other issues, and during the first months will consult widely to identify key priorities. Educational opportunity is essential, and I am personally committed to building on the turn-around of local schools seen since the Conservatives started running the council in 2017. We need to improve our public transport too, with better bus services and to finally get trains stopping at Gilsland again. I was delighted to bring the Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris to Gilsland recently so he can see the potential our project has for himself.

The £4.5 million invested in refurbishing Haydon Bridge High School represents real progress. I will also explore how road safety can be improved, including for cyclists, and warmly welcome the £120 million the county council will spend improving roads and fixing potholes. Finally, it is crucial to ask what more can be done to help local farming and business, and how communities can be better involved in delivering their housing needs. And, of course, I will take a very keen interest in the area's incredible heritage and its vital role in recreation and tourism.

A vote for me on 6th May is a vote for a new, positive, community-driven approach to Haydon and Hadrian. Together we will make it an even better place to live.

Thank you.

Vote Conservative on 6th May. 


Friday, 30 April 2021

Vote Gordon Stewart on Thursday 6th May

On Thursday 6th May, we will all have the chance to vote for the County Councillors who will represent our local towns and villages here in Northumberland.

I have been asking local Conservative candidates across the constituency to set out why they are standing to be County Councillor. 

Gordon Stewart is standing for County Councillor for Prudhoe South.

I was delighted and honoured to be elected as the County Councillor for Prudhoe South in May 2017. Prudhoe is a large town that had clearly lacked a lot of TLC over the many years of Labour control. 

Prior to being elected, I took a lot of time and effort to hear the views of local residents and businesses, and I continue to do this through a variety of ways, such as surveys, street surgeries or more traditional meetings. I really enjoy meeting residents at coffee mornings or group meetings. I have always made myself available every single day of the year.

Times have been difficult over the last year. I am proud to have been part of a small team leading on the support being provided around the town and to have been backed up by so many fantastic volunteers. Due to its great community spirit, our town has coped very well through this challenging time, so thank you all.

Over the last four years, the transformation of Prudhoe has been noticeable to all- improvements within all our schools, the biggest ever investment in our roads in Prudhoe, and a lot more to come after decades of total neglect by Labour. Major investment into our outside areas, including playgrounds, has also proved to be invaluable during the pandemic.

I have worked closely with businesses throughout the town and been instrumental in bringing the much needed new retail park to Prudhoe. This will create many job opportunities and save local people time and effort in travelling out of town to shop, as well as reducing their mileage to protect the environment. The retail park will give everyone another option when doing their shopping, but we are all also well aware that there are so many other fine businesses elsewhere in the town and it is so important to support them.

Prudhoe has a bright future as we continue to build back better. It is a town that now has ambition, aspirations and opportunities for all who live there. Prudhoe it a great place to live, work, learn, visit and invest in.

That is why I am very proud of the work I have done over the last four years and why I continue to be very proud of Prudhoe.

Vote Conservative on 6th May. 




Monday, 26 April 2021

Nominate your Coronavirus Community Champion!

It's always brilliant to hear constituents tell me of their gratitude to a particular person, business or organisation that has gone the extra mile to help them through this difficult time. 

That is why I created my Coronavirus Community Champion Awards, to recognise people who have gone above and beyond to help others during this pandemic.

I want to hear from you about the people who have gone out of their way to make your life a little bit easier, by nominating them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award.

If you would like to say thank you to an unsung hero of this pandemic, please nominate them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award here- https://www.guyopperman.co.uk/campaigns/guy-opperman-mps-coronavirus-community-champions 

Monday, 12 April 2021

HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh served our nation with distinction and unswerving loyalty, both as a distinguished Royal Navy officer through the Second World War and as a long serving Royal Consort to the Queen. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his life of dedication and service to our country and to the wider Commonwealth. 

My thoughts are with Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family as they mourn his loss at this sad time.




Thursday, 8 April 2021

Give blood and save lives

I recently visited The Mart in Hexham to give blood. Blood stocks are low at the moment, and so it is more important than ever that people come forward to donate blood and save lives. 

Donors of all ages and backgrounds are needed to make sure that the right blood is available to the patients that need it. This means that nearly 400 new donors are needed each day to meet demand, with around 135,000 new donors needed each year to replace those who can no longer donate. It is especially important that more young people come forward to donate blood so that there are enough blood donors in the future.

Giving blood takes no time at all and in doing so you could save lives. Please do look into whether you can donate blood and find your nearest centre here- https://www.blood.co.uk 




Saturday, 3 April 2021

Welcome funding for Tynedale and Ponteland's culture sector

More than £390 million of funding has been allocated to over 2700 arts, culture and heritage organisations in England as part of the second round of the Culture Recovery Fund. The funding has been allocated to organisations to help the culture and heritage sector reopen and recover as they welcome back visitors and return to normal in the months ahead.

Among the organisations to have been awarded funding from the Culture Recovery Fund are twelve in Tynedale and Ponteland. These include the Queen's Hall Arts, Vindolanda Trust, the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society and the Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of Hexham Abbey.

The past year has been incredibly difficult for the culture and heritage sector, and this announcement of funding to support the reopening of organisations in our local area is brilliant news. Congratulations to all of the recipients in the Hexham constituency.




Monday, 29 March 2021

Covid-19 roadmap- one step closer to life as we know it

Today marks the next stage of the roadmap out of restrictions. As part of stage 1b, from today:

  • Groups of six or two households are able to meet outside in public spaces or private gardens as long as they socially distance.
  • The 'stay at home' guidance has been lifted, meaning that it is no longer essential that you remain indoors. However you should still work from home if possible and minimise the number of journeys you take.
  • Outdoor sports facilities, including swimming pools, golf courses, sports pitches and courts, can reopen to allow sports to resume. This includes team sports, meaning that many grassroots competitions can now go ahead.
The coronavirus is still in circulation and we must all remain cautious and continue to take measures such as social distancing and wearing face masks. However the continued success of the vaccine programme means that we can now move on to the next step of getting back to life as we know it.



Thursday, 25 March 2021

Add your voice to the story of the pandemic in Humshaugh

Residents in Humshaugh have come up with a brilliant way to document the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the village and its residents.

Humshaugh Publications are asking residents to contribute to a book they are producing about the coronavirus pandemic in Humshaugh. Residents are being asked to provide something that shows how Covid-19 has impacted their lives- this could be a short piece of writing, a photograph, drawing or something else entirely.

I think this project is a fantastic idea. The past year has been unprecedented for all of us, and this book will act as a document of this time in Humshaugh for the future.

If you are a Humshaugh resident,  I would really encourage you to participate in this great project and add your voice to Humshaugh's story. You can send your contributions to pwoodward969@gmail.com or mauricegilmour@btinternet.com by the end of March. You can also leave contributions in the basket at the village shop.




Sunday, 21 March 2021

Census Day 2021

Today is Census Day. 

It is so important that you complete your census for various reasons. Not only does the information that we all provide create a record for future generations to look back on, but it also helps to inform both central and local government so that they can make decisions about the delivery of key resources, such as school places and health services. 

The census is a survey that takes place every ten years, designed to give a picture of the people who live across England and Wales. The census should take around ten minutes per person to complete.

To fill out your census online, visit here- https://census.gov.uk 





Thursday, 18 March 2021

50 and over? Book your vaccination now!

More than 25 million people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine- almost half of the adult population across the country. This incredible figure includes 95% of people ages 65 and over and 9 in 10 of those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The vaccination programme is now moving on to its next stage, with all people aged 50 and over now being invited to come forward and book their vaccination appointment on the NHS website here- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ 

The data shows that both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines reduce the likelihood of serious illness from coronavirus by 60% after the first dose, with protection against hospitalisation at around 80% and protection against death around 85%. It really is so important to get your vaccination to protect yourself and those around you, so if you are aged 50 and over please do book your vaccination now!




Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Funding opportunity for local environment projects

An unmissable opportunity has opened up for environmental charities and their partners to secure grant funding for projects focusing on conservation and restoration.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund, working in partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is set to support nature projects across England with a second round of funding worth up to £40m. This  follows on from the first round of funding awarded in December 2020.

Successful projects must deliver on at least one of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund's three themes- nature conservation and restoration, nature-based solutions and connecting people with nature.

The deadline for applications is 14th April 2021 (£50,000 to £250,000 level) and 22nd March 2021 (£250,000 to £2m). More information about how to apply can be found here- https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/funding/application-guidance-green-recovery-challenge-fund-round-2 




Thursday, 11 March 2021

Where can you get your vaccination?

The biggest vaccination programme in our country's history continues to go from strength to strength. People over the age of 55 are now beginning to receive their invitation letters, and in the Hexham constituency an incredible 4 in 10 of the adult population have now had at least one dose of the vaccine. This fantastic achievement is a testament to the amazing efforts locally of the NHS, our GP surgeries and support workers and volunteers.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been contacted by constituents who are concerned that they are being asked to travel long distances from their home when booking a vaccination appointment through the online booking system.

I have raised these concerns with the NHS vaccination programme in the North East, who have clarified how they are currently utilising various locations across the North East to vaccinate as many people as possible.

The vaccination programme is following the first phase priority groups, to ensure that those who are most at risk of serious illness from the coronavirus are vaccinated first.

Local GP practices are currently focusing on vaccinating those who are clinically vulnerable and have underlying health conditions. 

Meanwhile, people who are over 55 should receive a letter from the National Booking System inviting them to book a vaccination appointment at one of the large vaccination centres. These centres are situated at various locations across the North East, including Darlington, Washington and the Centre for Life in Newcastle. 

It is great to hear that so many constituents have been able to receive a vaccine at one of these large centres. However, I understand that other people might be uncomfortable or unable to travel further afield to be vaccinated. It is important to stress that even if you receive a letter to book through the National Booking System, you do not have to be vaccinated at a large vaccination centre. Everyone who wants to be vaccinated at the local GP vaccination service can be.

If you would prefer to be vaccinated at your own local GP practice, please ignore your letter and do not respond to the National Booking System. Instead, wait for your GP practice to contact you to arrange an appointment. This may not happen straight away and may it take a little while longer for them to contact you as they work through their priority groups, but your GP will be in touch with you to arrange an appointment as soon as they are able to.

I understand that people are extremely keen to receive their vaccine, however please do not contact the NHS or your GP practice to arrange your vaccine. They will contact you when it is your turn.


Friday, 5 March 2021

Welcome news in the Chancellor's Budget

On Wednesday the Chancellor announced his Spring Budget, which was full of good news for people across the Hexham constituency and the country as a whole. The Chancellor outlined his plans to support people and businesses through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond the end of the Prime Minister's roadmap for easing restrictions and to level up the economy across all regions of the UK.

Key announcements in the Chancellor's Budget include:

  • The extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September to ensure continued support for businesses, employees and their families
  • Two further grants for the self-employed, including those who are newly self-employed 
  • New Restart grants of up to £18, 000 and recovery loans to support local businesses to reopen
  • The opening of the new Levelling Up Fund for its first round of bids
  • The opening of a new Treasury campus in Darlington, as part of the Government's commitment to level up and spread opportunity across the whole country
This Budget will provide businesses and families across Tynedale with the support they need to get through the pandemic. The extension of financial support, including the furlough scheme and additional grants for the self-employed, will be a tremendous help to local businesses and individuals as we start to reopen the country and economy. I am especially thrilled at the announcement of a new Treasury campus in the North East, which signals that the Government is committed to delivering investment and opportunity across our region.

Further information about financial support available to businesses and individuals can be found here- https://www.guyopperman.co.uk/financial-support 




Monday, 1 March 2021

20 million vaccines!

The vaccine programme continues to go from strength to strength, with another milestone reached over the weekend- more than 20 million vaccines have now been administered across the UK. That works out as an average of more than 2.5 million doses per week or 1 in 3 adults vaccinated across the country.

In the Hexham constituency, 41.4% of people have now received a vaccine- a really incredible achievement by the NHS, volunteers, the Armed Forces and everyone involved with the vaccine rollout. 

The Prime Minister is aiming to have offered every adult a vaccine by the end of July. Everyone in the top four priority groups has now been offered a vaccine, and invites are now going out to those in groups 5 to 9.

Thank you to everyone who has come forward for their vaccine. Every jab makes a difference in our fight against Covid-19.



Thursday, 25 February 2021

Roadmap for easing restrictions

On Monday, the Prime Minister outlined his roadmap for cautiously easing the current lockdown restrictions in England. 

Thanks to the incredible ongoing success of the vaccine rollout, which has now vaccinated more than 18 million people across the UK, we are now in a position to start thinking about how we can gradually remove the current restrictions.

The roadmap sets out four stages for easing restrictions, with at least five weeks between each phase to allow the latest data to be examined. The data will be subjected to four key tests:

  • That the vaccine rollout continues successfully
  • That the evidence shows vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalisation and death
  • That infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations that would put the NHS under unsustainable pressure
  • That new variants of coronavirus do not cause additional concern
As the four tests are currently being met, the first stage of easing restrictions will begin on 8th March. On this date:
  • Schools and colleges will open for all students
  • Practical Higher Education courses can begin in-person learning
  • Exercise and recreation outdoors with your household or one other person can take place
  • Wraparound childcare, including sports activities, can resume for all children
  • Funerals can take place with up to 30 people attending, and weddings and wakes can take place with up to 6 guests
  • Care home residents will be able to name a visitor, who will be able to visit them regularly
Some further changes will also take place from 29th March, when schools go on Easter holidays:
  • The Rule of Six will return outdoors, including in private gardens
  • Organised outdoor sport (children and adults), all outdoor children's activities, outdoor sport and leisure facilities and outdoor parent and child groups (up to 15 people) can resume

Further easing of restrictions will take place in the coming weeks as long as the four tests continue to be met, with Stage 2 no earlier than 12th April, Stage 3 no earlier than 17th June, and Stage 4 no earlier than 21st June. 

I welcome the announcement of this roadmap, which means that after an incredibly difficult year, we can all now see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, please keep following the national restrictions that are still in place, in order to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the NHS.

Further details about the roadmap for easing restrictions can be found here-



Friday, 19 February 2021

Applications reopen for National Lottery Grants for Heritage

The last year has been incredibly challenging for many heritage organisations and projects across the Hexham constituency. 

It's therefore great news that the National Lottery Grants for Heritage scheme has reopened for applications. Organisations can apply for financial support for their heritage projects. 

When applying, heritage organisations are asked to focus on outcomes that will help drive the UK's wider recovery from Covid-19, by boosting local economies, encouraging and sustaining jobs and opportunities, supporting wellbeing and ensuring that heritage plays a central part in creating better places to live, work and visit.

Funding from the National Lottery has proved to be a lifeline to many heritage organisations this year, and I would strongly encourage our local heritage projects to apply. You can find out more about how to apply for a National Lottery Grant for Heritage here- https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/news/full-range-national-lottery-funding-resumes-refocused-priorities-2021-22 




Wednesday, 17 February 2021

George Stephenson's birthplace set to reopen its doors

I am delighted that following our long-running campaign George Stephenson's birthplace in Wylam will finally be back open for visitors. 

George Stephenson's birthplace was closed in 2017, however after long-term discussions with myself, local County Councillor Karen Quinn and Wylam Parish Council and the National Trust, it is great news that the National Trust have confirmed that the cottage will be open ten times between May and October. I am really pleased that the National Trust have listened and taken action, and I hope that visitor demand means that we can see the birthplace open even more throughout the coming years. 

George Stephenson is one of Wylam's most famous former residents and is known as the 'Father of Railways' because of his pioneering work on the railways and steam locomotives. He is such an important part of the history of Wylam and Northumberland as a whole, and I am so pleased that more people will now be able to share in this important piece of our heritage.



Monday, 15 February 2021

Nominate an unsung hero to be a Coronavirus Community Champion!

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged us all in ways we couldn't have imagined, and in an incredibly difficult time, one of the shining lights has been the extraordinary way in which communities have come together to support each other through the pandemic.

It's always brilliant to hear constituents tell me of their gratitude to a particular person, business or organisation that has gone the extra mile to help them through this difficult time. But most of these acts of kindness that are being carried out every day are largely going unrecognised.

That is why I am delighted to launch my Coronavirus Community Champion Awards, created specifically to recognise people who have gone above and beyond to help others during this pandemic.

I want to hear from you about the people who have gone out of their way to make your life a little bit easier, by nominating them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award.

This could be a teacher, delivery driver, care worker, shop worker or someone who has gone out of their way to help their vulnerable neighbours, to list just a few examples!

So if you would like to say thank you to an unsung hero of this pandemic, please nominate them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award here- https://www.guyopperman.co.uk/campaigns/guy-opperman-mps-coronavirus-community-champions 






Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Over 70? Come forward for your vaccine now!

The vaccine rollout is continuing to pick up steam, with over 12.2 million people now having received a vaccine so far. 9 in 10 of those aged 75 and over in England have now received their first dose, and it is aimed that by May, everyone over 50 will have received a vaccine.

Until now, the advice has been that you should wait to be contacted by your GP or the NHS to book your vaccination. However from today, anyone 70 or over who has not been vaccinated should contact the NHS to arrange their appointment. This can be done by calling 119 or online at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ 

By making sure that you and your loved ones are booked in for a vaccine, you can help give those most at risk the protection they need as we continue to fight this disease together.



Thursday, 4 February 2021

10 million vaccines!

Yesterday we reached a significant milestone in the vaccine rollout- more than 10 million people have now received their first dose of the vaccine!

9 in 10 people aged over 75 have now received a first dose, and vaccines have been offered to all elderly care home residents and staff in England and Wales. We are well on the way to hitting the target of offering vaccines to the top four priority groups by mid-February.

My thanks to our NHS workers, volunteers and armed forces for their tireless efforts to deliver the largest vaccination programme in our history. Every single vaccine given makes us all a little bit safer.



Monday, 1 February 2021

LGBT History Month

February marks the start of LGBT History Month.

Thanks to the efforts of LGBT campaigners, attitudes around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people and their lives have changed dramatically in the last thirty years.

In 2013, I backed gay marriage- a measure that was controversial at the time, but I genuinely believe that almost every MP would now vote to introduce same-sex marriage.

However there is still so much more to do. Specifically, HIV and AIDS is still a significant issue for the LGBT  community, and unfortunately attitudes towards HIV/AIDS are still too often stuck in the past.

There is good news though- there are now effective HIV/AIDS treatments and the aim is that the rollout of PrEP will have ended new cases by 2030. It is so important to remember that those on effective treatment cannot pass on HIV, and so this is a really significant step forwards.

1st February also marks the start of HIV Testing Week. The Coronavirus pandemic has shown the importance of effective and accurate testing, and testing can help to beat HIV too. Testing can be done at home and in private- just visit https://freetesting.hiv 



Thursday, 28 January 2021

Landmark Supreme Court ruling on business interruption claims

 Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of small businesses receiving payments from business interruption insurance policies. 

This news will have been warmly received by many small businesses across Tynedale and Ponteland and provide a lifeline to many in the months ahead.  

 

Insurers included in the case are Hiscox, Arch, Argenta, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA- but around 60 other insurers sold similar products and will have to start paying out to their policy holders. These companies will have to pay out on many, but not all, policies. 


I would ask any constituent who had business interruption claims rejected at the advent of the pandemic to contact their insurance company to see how this ruling affects them.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

True Potential donates to support local students learn online

The past year has been difficult for school pupils, with school closures changing the way that our students learn. This month, many students have once again had to switch to home-learning, as due to the rapid increase in coronavirus cases seen across the country, schools are currently closed to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Remote learning has been particularly challenging for students who do not have access to technology devices and internet services. That is why financial technology business True Potential has purchased laptops and tablet devices for local primary schools and academies in Northumberland and Newcastle, with more still to follow.

As well as buying new laptops for our local schools, True Potential is also offering many of its unused laptops.

I am now supporting True Potential to distribute the devices among local schools so that we can get them to the families that need them most for remote learning.

I know how challenging remote learning can be for students and their families. It is so important that every student has access to the resources they need to continue their education from home, and I am incredibly grateful to True Potential for the wonderful work they are doing to support our local students.

If you do not have access to a laptop, tablet or the internet to assist with remote education, you should contact your child’s school.



Monday, 18 January 2021

Supporting students with remote learning

The past year has affected each and every one of us, but it has been particularly challenging for our children, with school closures and being apart from their friends making this a very difficult time. 


Although schools are physically closed to most students, teachers are still working extremely hard to provide remote learning programmes to their students, whether that is through providing resources or holding online video lessons. 


As families begin a new week of home learning, it is important to remember that help is out there to support young people to learn effectively and safely at home.


Learning resources - your child’s school will be providing learning programmes each week so that students can continue their curriculum-based work. However, there are many educational and fun learning resources online - here are just a few:


- BBC Bitesize has lessons and quizzes for children from Early Years to over 16s, which cover a wide range of subjects- https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize


- The Oak National Academy was created in April 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The resources are created and delivered by teachers, and cover Reception to Year 11- https://classroom.thenational.academy


- There’s more to home learning than just English and Maths! The curriculum covers a variety of subjects, including art, music and PE. Joe Wicks’ online PE sessions are a great way to take a break and keep children moving- https://www.youtube.com/c/TheBodyCoachTV/videos


Northumberland County Council has also provided a list of online learning resources (https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/coronavirus/Northumberland-schools.aspx#helpwithhomeschooling-coronaviruscovid-19), including these brilliant slides which are packed full of fun home learning ideas-


Key Stages 1 and 2: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/NorthumberlandCountyCouncil/media/Document-store/COVID%20resources/New-Home-learning-for-KS1-and-KS2.pdf


Key Stages 3 and 4: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/NorthumberlandCountyCouncil/media/Document-store/COVID%20resources/Secondary-Version-Home-learning-Pack.pdf


Online safety - now we’re all working online more than ever before, it’s so important to ensure that children are able to access the Internet safely. Here are some useful resources to help you talk to your child about online safety: 


- Northumbria Police Safety Advice: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/NorthumberlandCountyCouncil/media/Document-store/Online-Safety-Advice.pdf


- NSPCC Online Safety Advice: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/ 


Access to devices and the internet


If you do not have access to a laptop, tablet or the internet to assist with remote education, you should contact your child's school. 


The government has made a significant investment into remote learning to ensure children can continue their education through the pandemic. More than 560,000 laptops and tablets have been delivered for disadvantaged children. 


The Department for Education has also worked in partnership with mobile operators to help schools support disadvantaged pupils who rely on a mobile phone signal for internet. Schools can request a free uplift in data for most of the main mobile network providers. You can find out more here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-technology-for-remote-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19#get-internet-access-for-disadvantaged-children


Mental health - many children will be understandably worried about the coronavirus and being away from their friends and school may have an impact on their mental health. Here are some resources designed to help children who are feeling anxious:


- This brilliant book is designed to help children understand the coronavirus and the effect it is having on their daily lives-  https://nosycrowcoronavirus.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/Coronavirus-ABookForChildren.pdf


- The NSPCC has advice for parents on how to talk to their child if they are worried about the coronavirus- https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/childrens-mental-health/depression-anxiety-mental-health/


For more resources and advice on remote learning, visit- https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/coronavirus/Northumberland-schools.aspx#TOP

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Community Champion winners celebrate half a century

 One of the best parts of being an MP is getting the opportunity to celebrate with and congratulate people who are at the heart of their local community.

Before Christmas, I joined forces with County Councillor Gordon Stewart to present husband and wife team Anne and Steve Blakeburn with one of my Community Champion Awards. Anne and Steve own Balls of Prudhoe Fish & Chip Shop on Front Street, Prudhoe, and are celebrating an incredible fifty years of their family business.

They have even kept going through the COVID-19 pandemic, working hard to ensure that they can continue to cater for the local community.

My Community Champions Award Scheme recognises people, charities and businesses in Tynedale and Ponteland who make a difference in their local communities. After serving the people of Prudhoe with fantastic food and a friendly welcome for the last half century, Anne, Steve and their team truly are community champions!

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Vaccines- your questions answered

Last week marked a milestone in Tynedale’s fight against the coronavirus, with the first vaccines delivered locally. Archie Tait from Barrasford celebrated his 88th birthday by receiving his first dose of the vaccine in Hexham! 

The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine across the Hexham constituency and beyond is a huge step forward in what is to be the largest vaccination programme in British history. Nationally, over 1.5 million doses have been given – more than the rest of Europe combined. 

 

I know that many people in the Hexham constituency have questions about the vaccination rollout and are anxious to receive news about when they can expect to receive their vaccine, so I have set out further information below. 

 

How many vaccinations have been administered so far?

 

In a sign of the rapid acceleration of the vaccine that we can expect over the coming weeks, very soon, hundreds of thousands of people will be being vaccinated per day. The government has a plan to vaccinate all of the four most vulnerable groups – 13.9 million people – with at least one dose by the middle of February. This includes all care home residents and their carers, frontline NHS staff, everybody over the age of 70, and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding. 

 

The Army have also been brought in to aid the pace of the rollout, using their expert logistics skills to ensure we can vaccinate people as fast as possible, so we can ease restrictions at the earliest opportunity. 

 

How many vaccines have been approved for use in the UK?

 

To date, three vaccines have been approved in the UK- Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca and Moderna. The UK has ordered 367 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, including 10 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which was approved this week.

 

Every vaccine in use has been approved by the independent expert body, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, following a rigorous assessment by a team of scientists, and advice from the Commission on Human Medicines, which reviewed all data to ensure the vaccine meets the required standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. 

 

All three vaccines have only been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency because they are safe, effective and give very high protecting from severe illness. 

 

How effective are the vaccines?

 

No vaccine is 100% effective – the annual flu vaccination programme, for example, provides around 67% protection. All three vaccines approved in the UK have been shown to offer a high degree of protection from the virus. 

 

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, while the recently approved Moderna vaccine offered nearly 95% protection from severe cases of the illness in trials.  

 

The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to be around 70% effective, and nobody who received this vaccine in trials developed severe COVID-19 or needed hospital treatment.

 

When will I get my second vaccine dose?

 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) authorisation of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine states that the vaccine should be administered in two doses. The second dose should be given between four and twelve weeks after the first. For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the second dose should be administered at least three weeks later.

 

Data shown to MRHA shows that both the Pfizer/BioNTeach and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines offer considerable protection against COVID-19 after a single dose. The Government has therefore asked GP practices to focus on giving the first vaccine dose to as many patients as possible, rather than vaccinating fewer people with two doses.

 

At this stage of the pandemic, it is important to prioritise the first doses of the vaccine for as many people as possible on the Government’s priority list. This will protect the greatest number of at risk people in the shortest possible time and will have the greatest impact on reducing mortality, severe disease and hospitalisations and in protecting the NHS. 

 

It is important to stress that everyone will still receive their second vaccination within 12 weeks of the first does, as this is important for longer term protection against COVID-19. 

 

Is the vaccine safe?

 

All three vaccines approved for use in the UK have been extensively trialled under a variety of conditions, before undergoing a robust and independent analysis process.

 

The MRHA is one of the most respected regulators in the world and has followed rigorous procedures to ensure that the vaccines meet the high standards of safety and efficacy. So far 1.5 million people have been given a COVID-19 vaccination and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. If you have concerns about your personal health in relation to receiving the coronavirus vaccine, I would certainly recommend that you first discuss this with your GP.

 

When will I receive my vaccine?

 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have set out guidance on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination. This priority list has been determined following consideration of evidence on the risk of exposure and mortality by age and occupation.

 

The vaccination programme is currently focused on vaccinating care home residents and staff, frontline health and social care workers, people over 70 years of age and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. The Prime Minister has stated that it is hoped that everyone who falls into one of these groups will have had a first dose of the vaccine by the middle of February. 

 

More than 1,000 GP centres, 223 hospitals and 200 vaccines will be giving vaccines by the end of the week, and once the above priority groups have been vaccinated, the government move to the next phase of the vaccination programme when the next priority groups will receive their vaccinations.

 

How will my vaccination be arranged?

 

Your GP practice will contact you when it is your turn to be vaccinated. I understand that many people are anxious to receive their vaccine but please be patient. Your GP practice will contact you in due course. 

 

In the meantime, make sure that you are registered with a GP practice and that they have up-to-date contact details for you or someone who they can speak to on your behalf.

 

The COVID-19 vaccine will always be free of charge and you will never be asked to share bank details to confirm your identity. The vaccination is only available through the NHS and it is not possible to pay to receive the vaccination privately.

 

I would really urge everybody who is offered the vaccination to take it. Vaccination is the best way of avoiding potential serious illness from the coronavirus and helping to ease the current restrictions and pressure on the NHS.