Priti calls for better local health services in Commons debate

Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak in the debate because it is a Queen’s Speech that will help to deliver a stronger economy for this country and better and stronger public services. Four years ago, this Government embarked on a radical and necessary programme of measures to turn the fortunes of this country and our economy around. For 13 years, my constituents were betrayed and let down by the previous Government, as taxes rose while unemployment soared, the economy went into meltdown and public services wasted taxpayers’ money on a colossal scale.
It is a tribute to this Government’s economic focus and policies that we have been able to turn things around. Ministers have implemented many clear measures. For example, unemployment in my constituency is now almost half the level it was when it peaked under the previous Government in 2009. These are the positive policies that I bring to today’s debate on the NHS. It is a testament to this Government’s commitment to the NHS that we are now seeing an increase in spending.
I heard the opening speeches in the debate, including by Labour Members. It is appalling that the Labour party likes to talk as though it owns the NHS politically. That is wrong. Labour should listen to some of the facts not just in my constituency but in the eastern region. The fact is that Labour went into the last general election with plans to cut NHS spending—we have heard about the impact of that in Wales—while we have continued to invest in the NHS. While Conservatives recognise the increasing pressures that the country faces from demographics and the health care needs of the public—
Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): Will the hon. Lady give way?
Priti Patel: I want to develop my discussion and go into more detail on the NHS. More investment in the NHS is required. This is not about cutting services, including front-line services, or funds. It is about expanding the NHS in the right way and, as the Secretary of State said, putting patients first and moving away from the bureaucratisation of the NHS.
Lyn Brown: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Priti Patel: Let me continue.
There were classic examples of that not just in my constituency but more widely in Essex. We heard earlier about Basildon hospital. In my constituency, one primary care trust saw its number of managers and senior managers increase tenfold over a decade. At the same time, it failed miserably to recognise the health needs of my constituents; we have a growing population as well as an ageing population. I had cases in 2010 where patients were denied access to life-saving hospital treatment and access to drugs because the PCT sought to prioritise spending on the bureaucracy of the NHS, rather than front-line patient care.
In Witham town, at the heart of my constituency, there is a chronic shortage of locally accessible health care facilities. All the talk by Labour and the slogans referring to “record investment” under Labour translated into nothing in my constituency. Under the previous PCT and the previous regime, we had consultation after consultation but no new services were created.
Lyn Brown: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Priti Patel: Just a second. Our GPs are among the most highly subscribed in the country, with 2,200 patients per GP compared to the national average of 1,500—that is over 40% more patients per GP than average. Not only did Labour fail to plan, but the former PCTs have left a chilling legacy of debt and financial mismanagement, which has held back our new clinical commissioning group from providing innovative solutions and new local health care.
I thank NHS England, the Department of Health and the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter). They have been incredibly accommodating and are looking to create local solutions and to expand front-line services in Witham town. We have been looking at bringing in a new, purpose-built medical centre in the town, which would provide new and integrated primary care services and make services more accessible for local people. Such a centre could even go as far as integrating our local ambulance services, too, in order to bring greater collaboration and integration across our local NHS, which is needed.
These provisions do not need to be included in legislation. This is not about new legislation in the Queen’s Speech. This is about a commitment at the grass roots from health providers and GPs to get on and start delivering these services. We did not have that commitment before.
Another example of where we were completely neglected is the East of England Ambulance Service. It is a fact that we have had endless problems. That was down to a culture of mismanagement. Front Benchers will be familiar with the crisis that we had in our ambulance trust. We had great paramedics who were doing a very difficult job, but they were being let down by hospitals, A and E, and the target culture. The service was worse than poor; it was inadequate. The trust is now recovering, thanks to Dr Anthony Marsh. Last Thursday night, I joined the ambulance trust and its team from Witham ambulance station on patrol and I cannot praise them enough for the work they do. It was interesting to see the handover in patient care as we turned up at Broomfield hospital and Colchester general hospital. We need greater integration so that we are putting patients first in the provision of front-line services.
Colchester hospital has been held back because of the legacy of the culture of targets. Because of the problems we had with East of England Ambulance Service, Colchester hospital had a target-driven culture that led to horrific examples of falling standards of care and data being manipulated. Investigations are taking place now. While what has happened at Colchester is nowhere near as damaging as what we have seen at other hospitals such as Mid Staffordshire, it shows what happens when targets overtake the delivery of quality front-line patient care. This should not be about bureaucracy, inputs or targets. We need an integrated approach so we deliver effective front-line patient care.
We struggled in the eastern region, and in Essex in particular, with the NHS legacy of the previous Government. It has been a real challenge for all health care professionals—I have mentioned our hospitals and the ambulance trust—and these are individuals who are dedicated to serving patients and doing the right thing, but they have been held back. The innovations and the NHS reforms, as well as the new investment being provided, will help to secure new services for my constituents and a more patient-friendly approach in Witham town.

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A12/A120 Consultations

Strategic Road Network Consultations

There are two important consultations running at the moment on key strategic road infrastructure improvements - the A12 widening scheme and the upgrading of the A120. Priti has been campaigning to secure new investment in these roads and has welcomed the consultations taking place. Members of the public can review the proposals for the A12 and A120 at the weblinks below, attend consultation events, and respond to the consultation. Feel free to also contact Priti by email to: [email protected] with your views too.

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