The Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales was the first cancer facility to bring proton beam therapy to the UK in 2018. Adult Welsh patients are now the first in the UK to be offered this pioneering treatment on the NHS. The centre, based in Newport, remained open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and has assisted local health boards by treating cancer patients who would have otherwise had their treatments delayed or cancelled.
It was a great pleasure to visit last week and tour the state-of-the-art facility, which included the 55-ton cyclotron used for the proton beam therapy machine. Rutherford is a leading example of an independent firm harnessing the expertise which exists in the UK to deliver transformational improvements to cancer treatments and the lives of patients. The UK Government is clear we want the UK to be a world leader in the science and research that will drive both economic growth and societal benefits for decades to come.
Sitting on the border between England and Wales in the village of Redbook near Monmouth is Jamie’s Farm. This amazing charity provides residential visits for disadvantaged students who are struggling socially or academically through a unique model of ‘Farming, Family and Therapy’. During their stay at Jamie’s Farm, young people engage in meaningful jobs on a real working farm, including caring for livestock, whilst receiving tailored therapeutic support.
Unfortunately, guidance from the Department for Education for the full reopening of schools advises against all residential visits, and overnight school trips are not permitted. However, a stay at Jamie’s Farm is very different to the usual kinds of recreational residential trips. The majority of the programme is held outside in the fresh air in very small groups and young people stay in a maximum of two to a bedroom. I have written to the Secretary of State for Education to ask for this guidance to be nuanced, so it’s not a catch-all blanket ban. Allowing small-scale therapeutic residential trips for vulnerable or disadvantaged pupils who require specialist support or respite without interfering with government efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 will enable Jamie’s Farm to resume its important work and help young people reset their lives.
In this the 80th commemorative year, we give thanks to the RAF air crew who fought bravely in the Battle of Britain. Many pilots came from all four corners of Wales and we salute them for their courage, their skill and the enormous contribution which they made. Over the years, the people of Wales are proud to have served in the RAF and many continue to do so today. And of course, we can be proud of the fact that all of today’s fighter pilots are trained in Wales at RAF Valley in Anglesey. What their predecessors achieved 80 years ago remains an inspiration to us all.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 23 September 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 24 September 2020*