Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Weekend Read: Hospitals, A&E and the NHS

I was granted just 4 minutes by the Speaker to address this important topic, shortly before Christmas; I set out my thoughts on local hospital healthcare provision in short form:

Meeting the wonderful Elsie at Hexham Hospital

As a jockey, I spent far too much time in A and E departments after coming off race horses.

Once, I wandered into hospital with a broken collarbone and four bones sticking out of my shoulder. On another occasion, I spent a long time with a cut kidney and lost a spleen at Warwick hospital—I thank Dr Mike Stellakis, and his team, for saving my life that night. Also, two years ago, I collapsed in the House and spent a night in St Thomas’ with a young but capable bunch of A and E doctors. I thank them all and put on the record this Christmas the huge effort made by all our public sector staff, particularly in the NHS.

In Northumberland, we feel that we are leading the way in health care provision. Begun under the previous Government, that has continued under this one. Haltwhistle is a small cottage hospital that in the olden days would have been shut, but which now is being rebuilt as an integrated NHS and local authority facility. It is the first of its kind in the country; it is utterly transformative and it is exactly what the NHS and the local authority should be doing with old buildings, although I urge the trust to resolve the contracts that are not yet resolved. When I visited it last week, however, I saw that it was a truly innovative building and that it would be a great addition.

Hexham A and E is also a fantastic building. This November, I worked there as a hospital porter, and I thank Barry, the head porter, who has worked there 31 years, for keeping me in line and ensuring I did not put anything in the wrong place. Then there is Cramlington, an innovative, pre-Keogh assessment health care centre being built for the north-east. It is a perfect example of where we should be going: a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, consultant-led facility. As an A and E specialist care facility, it is exactly what Keogh is talking about. Interestingly, it was planned under the previous Government and is being brought forward under this one. It is exactly the direction we should be heading in.
I shall deal briefly with another issue. Northumbria has outstanding health care, but sadly North Cumbria is having some difficulties, and I urge the Secretary of State to expedite the merger of Northumbria and North Cumbria NHS trusts as soon as possible.

I turn now to ways we can keep our constituents and patients out of A and E. I have no spleen—it was kicked out of me by a three-mile chaser at Stratford—so every year I need the flu jab. Consequently, like pensioners, some young children and vulnerable adults, I went to get my flu jab last month at Haltwhistle GP centre. I thank Sarah Speed—it was not painful and took only five minutes. Tragically, however, at least 10% to 20% of the population do not take up the flu jab and are therefore likely to end up in A and E over the winter or possibly die. As constituency MPs, we must ram home their failure to take up the opportunity to deal with their own health care.

Finally, I turn to the hospice and dementia care systems in Northumberland. In the Charlotte Straker hospice and Tynedale Hospice at Home, we have two outstanding hospices, both of which I have assisted and one of which I have fundraised for. Both do a great job keeping people out of hospital. I should also mention the Age UK programme dealing with elderly people in my constituency. It is making a huge difference and ensuring that everyone becomes a dementia friend. Only through such actions will we bring about real change in our health care system.