MP Owen Paterson back in House of Commons four months after breaking back in horse fall - with video
The North Shropshire MP broke three vertebrae in a riding accident in January.
He has been away from Westminster for 15 weeks, but North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson has marked his return to full political life with one ministerial meeting under his belt and another already planned.
Mr Paterson spent three weeks in the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries near Oswestry after breaking three vertebrae in a riding accident in January.
Totally dependent on others for everything from being turned in his hospital bed to eating, he says the experience had a profound effect on him, making him appreciate his good health.
Today he appeared wearing a neck brace during Prime Minister's Questions.
Watch Mr Paterson in the Commons:
Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, Mr Paterson rose to offer his heartfelt thanks to all the staff at the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries at Oswestry's Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Hospital.
"Without their extraordinary skill, professionalism and simple human kindness, I would not be here today," he said.
While he had been able to keep up his correspondence and many other aspects of his work as an MP, Mr Paterson says he is now keen to get back to full working life - particularly attending meetings and parliament.
“Thanks to a smartphone and tablet and staff in London I hope constituents did not notice a huge difference and that I was still able to represent them.
“There is only so long that you can hold a tablet above your head though. It was my inability to meet with people that was particularly frustrating.
“When you are in Westminster you can catch people to talk to and hold impromptu meetings.
“After scans at the spinal injuries centre at the Orthopaedic Hospital at Gobowen on Monday I was passed fit to travel, although still in a neck brace for security.
“There are times when I can still feel a tingling sensation in my fingers and I know that I have to rest.”
The MP is full of praise for staff both in A&E in Shropshire and at the Orthopaedic where he was taken to within 24 hours of his accident.
“I felt a huge sense of relief when I arrived there, I knew I was in the hands of a world class institution.
“I was completely in their hands and they were extraordinarily fantastic, patient and kind.
“They have to put up with some horrendous sights, sounds and smells and never once did I get the slightest sense that they were too busy or distracted to deal with the patients.”
Mr Paterson said he felt himself incredibly lucky.
“I was told at the beginning that I would be able to walk again but, although the hospital has a remarkable record of getting people back on their feet, some are told they will never walk again,” he said.
“At first several people were needed just to turn me so I did not get bed sores. I was impatient and kept trying to feed myself, with very messy results.”
He was allowed home after three weeks to recuperate and admits it was hard to make himself do so.
“My wife Rose has been very long suffering putting up with me.
"There was one time when in the middle of the cold snap I decided I would just go onto the yard - and slipped and fell. That was a lesson for me. It was a wholly unnecessary expedition that set me back a good few days.
“The verdict on Monday was that the bones are now stable enough to travel and I am glad to be back in full swing, although it is strange being back in Westminster.”
He said there had been many changes, such as ministerial reshuffles, but many things were unchanged.
“Big Ben is not chiming and that is sad and strange.”
Back to work
Transport is high on the MP's list and he and Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski were meeting today with roads minister, Jesse Norman.
He was also hoping to catch up with health minister Jeremy Hunt at an event last night to talk about the Future Fit plans for Shropshire.
"We have been given an enormous amount of money for the emergency centre which will mean that care we have lost to hospitals such as in Stoke and Wolverhampton will return to Shropshire while the two A&E departments will continuing providing most of the things they do at present. I would guess that this is the biggest state investment ever in Shropshire."
He has also set up a meeting with the children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi, to discuss the financial problems facing Derwen College, a specialist college near Oswestry.
“I just want the minister to be aware of the remarkable service provided,” he added.
"A couple of decades ago many people with learning disabilities were not deemed able to have a job. Now they come to Shropshire from all over the country and learn valuable skills to allow them to find employment."
The MP is also getting back into his constituency work, with a host of meetings and engagements back in Shropshire this weekend.
Ironically health is on the agenda on Friday with one of the regular health meetings he chairs in Oswestry.