Andrew Percy: Labour can’t defend 50,000 lost NHS beds

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THERE is doubtless concern on both sides of the House of Commons about A&E and the National Health Service in general, but there is also more than an ounce of political opportunism.

Not once did we hear any reference made to the Sir David Nicholson savings, which have put local acute hospital trusts under huge pressure, with £160m taken out of the budget for the Humber area alone.

If we talk to the chief executives of the hospitals, we find that they say that it is not top-down reconfigurations or policy changes since the general election that have placed them under such pressure, but the Nicholson savings when the NHS chief executive urged NHS trusts to deliver between £15bn and £20bn from 2011 to 2014.

I know that there is cross-party support for those savings, but we should all be as honest as possible in this place and ensure that we all accept a degree of responsibility for that challenge and the funding that it has taken out of our acute trusts, resulting in pressure on A&E departments – not just this year, but last year and in future years.

As I say, there is a huge degree of political opportunism going on about the NHS. It is clear that the Labour Party has decided that this is going to be an issue at the general election.

In my own constituency, the very people who stood silent when our hospital was losing its beds, when we were losing our hospital wards, when all our mental health beds were being taken away from us – these were the people who represented the town for the Labour Party – now suddenly find themselves standing up and pretending to be NHS campaigners. The public see through it – and I am sure they will at the next election, too.

Similarly, we have heard not a single apology from any Labour MP about the 50,000 beds cut under their government.

We have heard a lot about how people turning up at hospital often find that there are not enough beds, but not once did a Labour MP defend the 50,000 hospital beds lost when their party was in government.

That tells us all we need to know about the reason for this debate and for the general comments we have heard about the NHS recently.

It is all about political opportunism; it is about the next election.

I am sorry that our hard-working staff in the NHS – I work with them every weekend when I volunteer as a community first responder – are being placed in the middle of a dirty political game.

I would like to talk about a couple of examples from my constituency that are helping to address the problem.

The Montague Medical Centre in Goole had to close its lists down, but if we ask why, we find that it was due to the large uncontrolled immigration we had from the A8 countries.

That is a fact. That is why the lists had to be closed – due to the previous Government’s failure to plan for the number of people coming here.

I recently called on the NHS ambulance trust in my area to provide advanced paramedics, so that we could use our ambulance service better – a point I have made through the Health Committee – not just to convey people, but to treat them in their homes.

We established an emergency care practitioner in Goole, which in the first six to eight weeks saved 56 double-crew manned hours and numerous transfers to Scunthorpe A&E.

That has proved to be an effective use of our ambulance services, and I hope that we can start to see it moving through.

• Andrew Percy is the Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole who spoke in a Commons debate on A&E services. This is an edited version.