Paula Sherriff MP Column: Government is blind to NHS problems

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

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Earlier this week, I chaired a public meeting on the reconfiguration of services at Dewsbury Hospital at Dewsbury Town Hall.

Both Mid Yorkshire Trust and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group were invited - I hope that they were available to attend this meeting to discuss both these and future changes as it is vitally important that the public are kept fully informed about their local health services.

With final approval now granted by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust and North Kirklees CCG, the initial changes to maternity, children’s services and acute surgery will take place over the weekend of September 16.

I remain incredibly concerned about patient safety across the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust.

Having held numerous meetings and taken part in debates in Parliament to bring these issues to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, I am extremely disappointed that no action has been taken and that these downgrades are still going ahead.

Already, the changes from next month at Dewsbury District Hospital will leave the whole of Kirklees without consultant-led maternity services and expectant mothers will have to travel outside the borough if they want the reassurance of knowing that a consultant will be available if required during childbirth.

A midwife-led unit does not even offer the option for an epidural, which is often vital pain relief for mothers to be.

With parallel proposals to downgrade services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, the Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group is due to report on this on October 20.

I will continue to scrutinise and monitor the Trust and the CCGs and also to press for more joint working across the Kirklees footprint.

It is important to note that this is all happening against a backdrop of budget cuts and pressures from central government.

The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust faces budget cuts of £26m this financial year – its hospitals are facing well-documented staffing problems.

Yet the Government seems to be blind to the problems faced by our NHS.

Nationally, Jeremy Hunt is pressing on with his push for a ‘truly seven day NHS’.

Yet, as we’ve seen from leaked documents this week, the Government’s own civil servants have been warning of the dangers of putting increasing responsibilities on an overstretched service without realistic resources and staffing to meet these demands.

Responding to the news of the leaked papers this week, one former Tory Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter MP, who is also an NHS doctor described this as, “a warning of the dangers of putting soundbites ahead of properly funded and resourced plans for our NHS.”

The key elements of this certainly appear to echo the local picture – reduced funding and a shortage of staffing.

When even his colleagues are voicing public concerns, perhaps Mr Hunt might finally take note?