Agenda item

Overview of responsibilities of Portfolio Holder for Health - Verbal Briefing


Councillor Ralph welcomed Councillor Mayes to the committee in his role as portfolio holder for health and air quality. Councillor Mayes thanked Members for inviting him this evening and stated his portfolio of health and air quality had been heavily dominated by the COVID pandemic which had reached every area of the health system and council. Some of the items covered by his portfolio were: working cross party with Brighter Futures on drug and alcohol support, obesity, tobacco and health and wellbeing strategies, mental health steering group, the importance of air quality; working with partners including the Alliance Director and working with partners on broader strategic view to ensure all was being done to ensure the best outcome for residents was achieved. Councillor Mayes was happy to then take any questions from Members.


Councillor Ralph questioned whether there was anything outside of the portfolio holder’s remit that could be added that would make his job easier and have more control. Councillor Mayes acknowledged one of the frustrations for residents was general practitioner appointments and acknowledged primary care was essential in the health and wellbeing of all residents and more importantly for this care to be best it could be in Thurrock to prevent serious illnesses at an early stage. So having more control and commented on the ongoing work by officers on the ICB Strategy where community leaders would have more input in that which would be fantastic.


Councillor Holloway referred to the Lower Thames Crossing and asked what interventions had the portfolio holder made to ensure air quality was measured to which Councillor Mayes stated the dedicated Air Quality officer would feed into modelling, especially traffic modelling, so get a better understanding and this would then feed into the future years. Looked into what could be done and delivered. Councillor Holloway asked for clarification as to whether any interventions had taken place with the Lower Thames Crossing people, such as meetings being held or letters sent, around air quality to which Councillor Mayes stated the Lower Thames Crossing was not within the remit of his portfolio, but air quality was and were doing what we could and what we had control over. Councillor Mayes referred to the work being undertaken by the Lower Thames Crossing Task Force and would continue to challenge where possible on the health impact assessments.


Councillor Holloway asked for a progress update on the Air Quality Strategy to which Councillor Mayes stated the Council did have an Air Quality Monitoring Strategy and had sensor testing units around the borough and were actively monitoring and checking levels. The full air quality review refresh was coming through and would be presented to this committee and to the Cleaner Greener Safer committee as well. Councillor Holloway stated this was some 12 months ago that Councillor Mayes had promised this refresh and questioned when the committee would finally see the report. Councillor Mayes stated that in his portfolio holder report to Council he had said this was not the time do this as with the pandemic the monitoring of air quality would not be the same as people were working from home, so less traffic on the roads. This would need to be undertaken when it was near as possible as before so an accurate review could be undertaken rather than refreshing a model that would not be fit for purpose.


Councillor Holloway referred to the Better Care Fund and asked how much money was currently in the Better Care Fund and as portfolio holder ensured it was used for essential projects. Councillor Mayes stated this was a fund that came in from Public Health and he met regularly with officers to discuss items related to public health and look at what could be done, invest in and look at innovative ways to deliver the best result.


Councillor Holloway questioned whether any of the current commissions in the public health responsibility would change over the next 12 months to which Councillor Mayes stated contracts came up for renewal at certain times and when they did these would be discussed between himself and directors who had the experience and expertise to input into those discussions.


Councillor Ralph referred to the lack of general practitioners in Thurrock and questioned the portfolio holder on how he thought general practitioners could be encouraged to have practices in the borough. Councillor Mayes stated the commissioning of general practitioners was the responsibility of the NHS in terms of how many and where they were based but the council was encouraging new general practitioners through the integrated medical centres that would provide state of the art centres that offered integrated care.


Councillor Ralph questioned whether the portfolio holder had been provided with enough information during the COVID pandemic and what else would have helped him in his portfolio holder at that time. Councillor Mayes stated he started his portfolio role eight weeks before the COVD pandemic and had worked with officers and colleagues almost daily, sometimes multiple times, to look at all aspects as the situation was for ever changing and confusing at times. The process had been extremely challenging and very dark at times but everyone had done their best in such a challenging situation.


Councillor Holloway agreed officers were brilliant and did so much work but questioned what Councillor Mayes did in his portfolio role around attending meetings and questioned how many meetings had he attending regarding the relocation of Orsett Hospital to Grays and what practical steps had he taken to ensure all the services remained. Councillor Holloway also questioned how many letters had he written and how many motions had he submitted. Councillor Mayes stated there was an MRU, a secretary of state directive in place for letters but what was needed was constructive working with partners and having input at meetings and he speak regularly with the Alliance Director, directors and NHS partners. 


Councillor Mayes left the meeting at 8.10pm.