AFTER clearing the huge backlog caused by the Covid pandemic, NHS waiting lists have started to come down over the past few months but there is still much more to do.

It was therefore good to see the Chancellor include proposals in his Budget earlier this month to make sure we get the most out of every extra pound of the record investment going into the NHS.

As part of this investment and drive to improve productivity, the Government has already invested in 160 new Clinical Diagnostic Centres across the country to carry out tests, checks and scans to help bring down waiting lists and speed up access to services.

We were one of the first areas to have these new CDCs, with Diagnostic Centres at the Corbett and Dudley Guest, and a Blood Test Centre at Merry Hill which opened at the end of 2022. Last week I dropped by at the centre to catchup with the team who have recently reached the milestone of carrying out 100,000 tests – taking pressure off Russells Hall Hospital, allowing the hospital to be more productive and deliver more quickly for patients.

I also visited County Pharmacy on Wordsley Green to speak with the staff there about the new Pharmacy First scheme launched by the government and NHS England in January. The scheme enables community pharmacists to supply prescription-only medicines, including antibiotics and antivirals where clinically appropriate, to treat seven common health conditions without the need to visit a GP.

As regular readers will know, every year I organise a number of events to help local people of all ages find new career opportunities.

The first of those events for this year was my annual Apprenticeship Fair which I held last week at Kingswinford Community Centre. I brought together our local colleges, and a wide range of both public sector and private sector employers to share information about the different opportunities they had available.

Once again, the turnout was great and I was really pleased to see hundreds of local people seize the opportunity of coming along to find out more about the careers paths that may suit them.

Finally for this week's column, the concern in some areas caused by providers installing new telegraph poles in questionable locations.

We all know that faster and more reliable internet is going to be a key part of both our social and economic lives now and in the future. However, when it comes to BRSK and other new providers, they have been given very clear guidance that they should in the first instance be sharing existing infrastructure; and, where new infrastructure is required, it should be underground rather than overground wherever possible.

I have been in touch directly with BRSK to emphasise this guidance and met with Ministers to emphasise the issues that residents face.

As the official regulator for communications, Ofcom have wide-ranging powers to hold broadcasting and telecommunication firms to account; I have therefore also written to the Council encouraging them to submit any reports to Ofcom where they feel there is evidence that BRSK are not following the official guidance.