Saturday, 24 January 2015

Seema Malhotra MP: Urgent measures are needed to save the NHS

 Recent crises in the local NHS are the results of decisions in Westminster, argues Feltham and Heston Labour MP Seema Malhotra in her latest column.
Feltham & Heston MP Seema Malhotra

Few will have missed that the last few weeks has seen a crisis in the NHS .
This has also been the subject of debates in Parliament in which I have asked questions of the Secretary of State (for Health) on the issues and on GP appointments, which local residents continue to raise with me.
I was saddened that Ashford and St Peters had to declare a major incident, and I think we should all acknowledge the staff for what they achieved in bringing the situation back under control in a week following a difficult New Year. Their website still reads 'We are currently under severe pressure - please don't come to A&E unless you are a real emergency. Non-emergency patients are likely to have an extremely long wait and could be taking staff away from caring for patients who need emergency or life-saving care.'
Other hospitals in our area including Ealing and Hillingdon continue to suffer huge pressures.
This week the House of Commons in an opposition day also debated the way the NHS is under unprecedented pressure, how attendances at A&E departments have increased by 60,000 in the last four years of the current Government, and believe that this is linked to decisions taken by David Cameron, including cuts to adult social care, the abolition of NHS direct, the closure of almost one in four walk-in centres and the removal of the GP access guarantee.
Labour called on the Government to raise an extra £2.5bn for the NHS, which Labour will fund from a tax on high value homes. We desperately need measures to ease the current pressure.
The NHS changes that Labour has been concerned about and much of which we would seek to reverse have led to an unfortunate fragmentation of health services. The Government took away the ratio that Labour brought in of GPs to patients. This means GP practices can accept as many patients as they wish without needing to get another GP on the team if they go over a certain limit. This means it can contribute to revenues coming in to the GP services, but patients waiting longer for an appointment.
The inflexibility of some GPs in how you can fix an appointment is also a matter of concern. The need to call on the day at a certain time e.g. 8am, and then with so many calling it can be pot luck if you get through or if you have to try again tomorrow. That isn’t the way to plan healthcare. Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre in spring last year suggested there are 2,003 registered patients per GP in the borough, higher than anywhere but Swale, in Kent.
Labour's 48 hour GP appointment guarantee means you would be able to get an appointment within 48 hours if you want and need it. But of course you should also be able to plan ahead and book on a date in the future convenient for you and for your work. We need to think holistically about how GP appointments and our health services tie in with people's lives.
I spent some time with our community health care trust this week, as part of my Parliamentary work, also to understand more about how strategies to help identify and tackle violence against women and girls are being embedded in our community. Our community nurses, midwives and school nurses do an outstanding job, and we are incredibly fortunate that we have a local community health trust that has a green rating both on finances and quality - a rare combination. They work closely with Richmond and Hounslow local authorities and hospitals on most aspects of care in the community.
So whilst we thank and appreciate what all those who work in our health services are doing for our families and communities, it’s time also to make the connection between what is happening on the ground and the political decisions being made in Westminster.



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