Archive for October, 2019

Artificial Intelligence and even the use of robots?

Friday, October 25th, 2019

At the county council we’ve always prided ourselves on looking for better, more effective ways of doing things, using new technologies and finding innovative solutions to problems.

Well, in our Public Health annual report published this week, we’re calling for a debate on the increasing use of technology to help support our ageing population.

I have blogged about this before, but between now and 2029 the number of over-65s in Staffordshire is expected to increase by almost a fifth. And while the county’s average life expectancy is 80 years for men and 83 for women, it’s calculated that on average ill-health begins at the age of 63 and 64 respectively. 

We know that traditional health and care services are not adequately ready to cope with this increasing number of people with multiple long-term conditions, but if we can use technology where appropriate, it could not only help people themselves but could reduce pressures on and benefit the health system at the same time.

I’m sure you’ll agree, technology such as smart phones have already totally transformed our lives.  A decade ago it was unthinkable that banks would be disappearing from the High Street, but some of us now manage our account on our phones, even paying for things with a simple tap.

Artificial Intelligence, remote consultations, smart speakers and even the use of robots are now all technological developments which could be used alongside traditional support. And, they’re not that far away from being deployed in easy reach.

Digital technologies really could offer an opportunity to do things differently, enabling people to take more control of their lives including their health and wellbeing.

It’s an interesting report and you can read the full Director of Public Health Annual Report 2019 here.

Fireworks Safety

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
Fireworks cluster.

This time of year is one when we want to have some fun and lighten things up as the nights draw in. It is also a busy time for our Trading Standards team. Christmas and New Year are just around the corner, and before that we have Halloween and Bonfire Night; and the one thing these events have in common is fireworks!

We do want people to be able to enjoy their celebrations and have a good time but we want them to do it safely. Fireworks by their very nature can be dangerous so there’s a few areas of work that keep us busy as a county council.

Over the next few weeks our Trading Standards team will be visiting traders to make sure that those licensed to stock and sell fireworks are doing so safely and responsibly. This includes storing them safely, only selling to over 18s and only selling within specific dates in the run up to Bonfire Night and for New Year.

We’re also reminding consumers to be particularly cautious when buying fireworks too. This includes only buying items from properly registered sellers and not to be tempted in to buying fireworks through social media.

Only last week our team led an operation into an individual who was storing a large quantity of fireworks and selling display fireworks from a flat in a multi-story block. Not only was he putting his family at risk but also the entire block of residents. These were ‘display fireworks’ with high amounts of explosives which should only be used by professionals.

There’s lots of advice on fireworks safety here and anyone concerned about unsafe selling of fireworks can contact the Trading Standards confidential helpline on 01785 277855.

Have a good time, but please stay safe.

Signing off on our housing and economic development plan

Friday, October 18th, 2019

I have always maintained we have a need for a long-term plan for housing and economic development, the infrastructure needed for it and what we can all in the public and private sectors do to support this.

Well, at our Cabinet meeting this week we signed off on a plan that will support the construction of new homes and ensure our communities are provided with job opportunities, high quality transport, leisure facilities and excellent digital connections. 

As a county council, we have the responsibility to provide an overview that will help to inform the various organisations and companies that would be involved in the actual work. This includes, potential developers, investors, transport organisations and energy and waste companies. 

Having the plan means there will be better coordination to ensure new communities have excellent schools, healthcare, leisure and community facilities, in addition to protecting established town and village residential areas. It also means that the necessary infrastructure like roads, utilities, broadband can all be put in place earlier on in the process and ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum.

Some of the areas for larger developments to watch out for over the next few years include:

  • Stafford Gateway and Burleyfields
  • Branston Locks near Burton
  • Liberty Park in Lichfield
  • Tamworth golf course
  • Rugeley power station
  • Keele Science and Innovation Park
  • Biddulph and Codsall

Well planned housing development is a key part of our continued economic growth and will also make sure we have thriving communities across our county.

I will keep you posted on the plans.

Jobs figures make good reading

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Today we got some more encouraging news which shows the county is maintaining a near full employment rate. This proves our work to build a strong economy and create more better paid jobs is paying off.

The figures show that in Staffordshire just two per cent of the local population are claiming out-of-work benefits. This is lower than both regional (3.7 per cent) and national (2.8 per cent) figures.

Regular readers will know that building a strong local economy with plenty of skilled jobs is one of the best ways of making Staffordshire a great place to live and work. And to achieve this, our work with our Local Enterprise Partnership  and local councils continues at pace.

We continue to have a good story to tell and plenty to shout about. Across the LEP area since 2011, 58,000 jobs have been created. In the same period of time wages have risen by 13.5 per cent and during 2017/18 there were a total of 2,750 apprenticeships in place across the county.

Just as important as creating the higher skilled jobs, it’s also vital that people have the skills to take them on. This means our work with the LEP’s advanced manufacturing and engineering skills hubs, local colleges and training providers remains key too. Good jobs comes hand in hand with having good skills.

Importance of good health and wellbeing

Friday, October 11th, 2019

In my last post I spoke about this year’s Stoptober campaign and how it’s helping people quit smoking and hopefully live longer.

But there are lots of other things we can do to help us stay healthier and happier too. Encouraging people to stay active, improving our mental wellbeing, helping people reduce their drinking and eat more healthily are some of the areas we continue to focus on.

Keeping fit, healthy and having positive mental health can really improve your quality of life and could help to prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and reduce your risk of suffering a stroke or living with dementia and frailty in later life. Making small practical changes that fit into your life can make a big difference.

We also know that people in Staffordshire are living longer, which is a good thing, but not necessarily healthier lives. And, with less money available, we need to encourage people to take greater responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, so that the council can focus its resources on those that need help the most. 

So, to help people improve their health and wellbeing, we have a handy online health and wellbeing planner that will signpost people to advice and support from a range of public, private and voluntary organisations.  The planner can help identify what changes people might want to make in their lives, what they can do differently to achieve their goal, and has advice to help them along the way. A personalised report is produced at the end of the tool summarising all the actions along with the relevant information and guidance.

You can go straight to the online health and wellbeing planner and get started here.  

In addition to this, there is also a targeted lifestyle service for people aged 50-plus who  live in priority areas where residents have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and poor health. The service provides NHS Health Checks as well as lifestyle help, including weight management, advice on diet and malnutrition, physical activity, stop smoking, falls prevention and social isolation.

If this has left you thinking, and you are serious about making some lifestyle changes then there’s more information on the Staffordshire Everyone Health website.

Stoptober’s back!

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Stoptober, which has just kicked off this month, is the national campaign to help people quit smoking and it’s a really important initiative we’ve been supporting since it launched in 2012.

Now that the county council are responsible for Public Health in Staffordshire, one of our major areas of work is encouraging people to take greater responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, so that the county council can focus its resources on those that need help the most.

This probably won’t be news to most people, but half of all smokers die from smoking-related illnesses like heart disease and lung cancer, so it’s still a major health problem.

But there is help available. Through the Stoptober campaign you can get a personalized quit plan and support via the Stoptober app to help you on your journey. And remember, research shows that people who can give up smoking for 28 days are five times more likely to quit for good.

Finally, quitting is good for your friends and family too who don’t have to breathe in the smoke and leaves more money in your pocket, saving the average smoker over £150 a month or £1,800 a year, enough for a good holiday or other healthy pursuits.

If you are serious about quitting smoking, you’ll get more information here.