NHS SERVICES (HERTFORDSHIRE)

- Wednesday, 12th July 2006

 

Type: Debate
Date of Proceeding: 12.07.2006
Reference: 448 c466-7WH
Member: Lilley, Peter
Title: NHS Services (Hertfordshire)
Description: I echo the tribute paid by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Gauke) to NHS staff, who are dedicated, devoted and hard-working.

I have represented a Hertfordshire constituency for nearly a quarter of a century, and this is the worst crisis that the NHS has ever faced during that time. The words "cuts? and "crisis? have been used fairly frequently over the past 20 years, but throughout that time they meant a reduction in the anticipated growth in spending or employment. This is the first time that we have known a real crisis.

It is a crisis of jobs. The two hospital trusts that serve my constituency each plan to shed 500 jobs?a total of 1,000. That is clearly only the start, because those cuts meet only a portion of the savings that the trusts have been told to make. Those cuts include nurses and doctors as well as the vital staff who back them up.

It is a crisis of hospitals. Harpenden memorial hospital in my constituency is to lose all its hospital beds; effectively, it is to be closed as an in-patient hospital. It is clear that of the two hospitals that serve the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, one is likely to be downgraded to little more than a cottage hospital. The promise of a new super-hospital at Hatfield that was floated and talked about assiduously before the election has now been downgraded from one costing ?500 million that would have included a new cancer unit to one that will cost at most ?300 million or ?400 million; and within that envelope it will be impossible to include a new cancer unit?if it ever goes ahead.

It is a crisis of trust. At a public meeting that I chaired last September, my constituents expressed concern about rumours that the Harpenden memorial hospital might be closed. The PCT said at that meeting that it had considered all the options and that it had decided that it was an economic, efficient and caring way of providing health care for local people and that it wanted to build on that provision. Eight months later, it announced that every bed was to go. It is a crisis of trust in the management of the PCT.

It is also a crisis of trust in the Secretary of State. I asked her the other day why the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust will have to cut a quarter of its spending??66 million of a total of ?267 million over the next three years. She said that the Department did not require any cuts in its budget, just that it should live within its budget. However, the figures that I cite are from the press release of the national health service, so someone is not to be trusted. I fear that the Secretary of State must have been ill-informed. We therefore cannot trust what she says about our local health service.

It is a crisis of care. The new model of care is designed to discourage and if possible prevent GPs referring patients to hospitals. A target has been set for the number of such referrals to be reduced by 50 per cent. In six areas, the target is a reduction of 80 per cent. in the number of patients being referred to hospitals. I have no objection to people being treated at home or elsewhere better than or as well as in hospital, or even more efficiently. However, setting a target rather than saying that the Department would provide the best form of care, whatever the outcome may be, is dangerous. It makes clear that this reduction in care is being imposed as a result of budget stringency.

At a street meeting last Friday, my constituents asked one question?why is this happening? If there has been such an increase in NHS expenditure, why for the first time in their recollection are 1,000 jobs to go? Why are hospitals to be closed? Why is care being rationed? They want to know. I cannot tell them. Will the Minister give us an explanation that we can give to our constituents? I echo the tribute paid by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Gauke) to NHS staff, who are dedicated, devoted and hard-working.

I have represented a Hertfordshire constituency for nearly a quarter of a century, and this is the worst crisis that the NHS has ever faced during that time. The words "cuts? and "crisis? have been used fairly frequently over the past 20 years, but throughout that time they meant a reduction in the anticipated growth in spending or employment. This is the first time that we have known a real crisis.

It is a crisis of jobs. The two hospital trusts that serve my constituency each plan to shed 500 jobs?a total of 1,000. That is clearly only the start, because those cuts meet only a portion of the savings that the trusts have been told to make. Those cuts include nurses and doctors as well as the vital staff who back them up.

It is a crisis of hospitals. Harpenden memorial hospital in my constituency is to lose all its hospital beds; effectively, it is to be closed as an in-patient hospital. It is clear that of the two hospitals that serve the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, one is likely to be downgraded to little more than a cottage hospital. The promise of a new super-hospital at Hatfield that was floated and talked about assiduously before the election has now been downgraded from one costing ?500 million that would have included a new cancer unit to one that will cost at most ?300 million or ?400 million; and within that envelope it will be impossible to include a new cancer unit?if it ever goes ahead.

It is a crisis of trust. At a public meeting that I chaired last September, my constituents expressed concern about rumours that the Harpenden memorial hospital might be closed. The PCT said at that meeting that it had considered all the options and that it had decided that it was an economic, efficient and caring way of providing health care for local people and that it wanted to build on that provision. Eight months later, it announced that every bed was to go. It is a crisis of trust in the management of the PCT.

It is also a crisis of trust in the Secretary of State. I asked her the other day why the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust will have to cut a quarter of its spending??66 million of a total of ?267 million over the next three years. She said that the Department did not require any cuts in its budget, just that it should live within its budget. However, the figures that I cite are from the press release of the national health service, so someone is not to be trusted. I fear that the Secretary of State must have been ill-informed. We therefore cannot trust what she says about our local health service.

It is a crisis of care. The new model of care is designed to discourage and if possible prevent GPs referring patients to hospitals. A target has been set for the number of such referrals to be reduced by 50 per cent. In six areas, the target is a reduction of 80 per cent. in the number of patients being referred to hospitals. I have no objection to people being treated at home or elsewhere better than or as well as in hospital, or even more efficiently. However, setting a target rather than saying that the Department would provide the best form of care, whatever the outcome may be, is dangerous. It makes clear that this reduction in care is being imposed as a result of budget stringency.

At a street meeting last Friday, my constituents asked one question?why is this happening? If there has been such an increase in NHS expenditure, why for the first time in their recollection are 1,000 jobs to go? Why are hospitals to be closed? Why is care being rationed? They want to know. I cannot tell them. Will the Minister give us an explanation that we can give to our constituents?
Proceeding: 58323
Legislature: House of Commons (HoC)
Place: Westminster Hall
Session: 05-06

 

 

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