I was pleased to speak to Ben Wright on Radio 4’s Westminster Hour on Sunday night about Keir Starmer’s call for a General Election following the resignations of the former Prime Minister and two of his supporters. There will now be at least 2 by-elections in July and potentially and third later this year all about the same issues but all taking place in very different parts of the country. We also have the issue of Margaret Ferrier’s seat in Scotland potentially coming vacant in the summer.
We cannot continue over the next 6 or 12 months with a government more focussed on party management than addressing the needs of the country. Who knows if there will be more by-elections in the coming months, causing yet more disruption and distraction from the issues that really matter to people.
I joined a debate in Westminster Hall on the new hospital programmes, predominantly in London, however the issue of hospitals is not a localised issue. We quickly learned that the Government’s promise of a new hospital programme was not a promise of 40 new hospitals. They are not all hospitals and there certainly are not 40 of them.
According to the National Audit Office, the NHS estate does not meet the demands of a modern health service. The growth in backlog maintenance risks harm to patients, and the need for capital is being consistently underestimated. Billions of pounds of capital spending have been diverted to cover inadequate revenue funding, and yet some restrictive ringfencing on some capital budgets means there are huge underspends even though the NHS estate is crying out for investment.
In July 2020, the Public Accounts Committee recommended a capital strategy and guidance, including expectations on how backlog maintenance costs will be addressed alongside other priorities.
In October 2021, the NHS Confederation stated that NHS leaders had concerns about safety standards because they cannot sufficiently maintain their estate, enable positive digital innovations and reduce the elective backlog without further worsening health inequalities. It described a disjointed and opaque allocation system and unresolved issues about how integrated care systems will allocate and prioritise capital spend. Where is the Government action on any of this?
I saw the impact of the cuts to the health service during a visit to Hull with Wes Streeting MP and the Shadow Health team. We went to see Bransholme Health Centre, the Urgent Treatment Centre, the Jean Bishop Integrated Care Centre and Hull Royal Infirmary Emergency Department. The incredible work that the doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and all the other hospital staff are doing in very difficult circumstances is always inspiring. We saw some fantastic services for frail patients to help keep them from falls and maintain independence, but the staff are so clearly at breaking point. Our health service needs support – it deserves our support, because I do not know where we would be without them and their care and dedication.
In Bristol, it was wonderful to visit New Oak Primary and meet with staff and see the work being done with some exceptional young people. This is a fantastic, nurturing environment for our young people. The teachers, teaching assistants, and SEND staff have created a great atmosphere for learning and there is support for every student and their needs. I got to speak to some of the students and they quizzed me on my job as an MP. It’s great to spend time with some inquiring minds and those who have such bright ideas about the future! And to all the year 11’s moving on, good luck for whatever comes next.
This week we marked the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, which took the lives of 72 people. We remember the victims, and stand with their loved ones and the Grenfell community as they pursue justice and campaign for change.
If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0117 953 3575.