Hospital buildings in Yorkshire are described as being “past their sell-by date” and it is feared poor infrastructure is having a knock-on effect on the morale of health workers.
The future of the NHS has taken centre stage in the General Election campaign this week, with the Conservatives and Labour pledging much-needed funding boosts for the health service.
And it emerged on Thursday that the NHS is experiencing its worst ever performance in A&E and heading for one of its “bleakest” ever winters, with thousands of people facing rising waits for operations and cancer treatment.
The Yorkshire Post spoke to Dr Richard Vautrey, a Leeds GP and chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, and Dr Nick Scriven, a consultant in acute medicine in Calderdale and president of The Society for Acute Medicine, about what the next government should be prioritising.
Dr Vautrey said NHS workers in Yorkshire do not have confidence in the institutions and facilities they are working in, due to the poor state of old premises, and the Government needs to fund long-term investment in infrastructure to change this.
“The practice premises are often inadequate. Many hospital buildings are very much past their sell-by date and are not in a good state to offer good care”, he added.
Dr Vautrey said this issue has impacted every aspect of the health service, including the level of care. While Leeds in particular has been promised investment, Dr Vautrey said this was not good enough for the region.
Earlier this year, the Conservative government promised to build 40 new hospitals, though it later emerged that funding was only allocated for six to receive building work by 2025.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust was among the trusts to benefit, with two new hospitals, one for adults and the other for children, to be built at Leeds General Infirmary.
Up to 38 other hospitals will receive money to develop plans for upgrades but not to undertake any building work.
Dr Scriven echoed the need for improved NHS infrastructure in Yorkshire, adding that a large number of Yorkshire’s hospitals are very old and without the necessary technology to function effectively.
He said: “This definitely has a knock-on effect on staff morale and can cause delays in care. If you don’t have enough diagnostic scanners, patients can be waiting unnecessarily for a very important scan”.
He highlighted areas such as Huddersfield and Goole as premises that need urgent improvement.
Dr Scriven said the next government needs to get all hospitals and practices, such as these, up to an acceptable standard rather than focusing on a top 20, the way previous governments have done, that he said make good headlines but leaves hospital infrastructure ‘still pretty poor’.
Dr Vautrey highlighted that a number of medical practices in Leeds and West Yorkshire are still operating out of Victorian buildings.
He said these buildings often have problems with disabled access, installing technology and are not “conducive to modern medical practice”.
He added: “If you look at a lot of hospital estates across the region it is easy to find facilities that need replacing. That involves investment in infrastructure.”
What are the policies?
Below are some of the main parties’ pledges on the NHS made in the run-up to the election.
Labour is promising to
- Raise the NHS budget to £155bn by 2023-24 and to reduce waiting times in A&E.
- Bring back the bursary for nurses and midwives to fund their time spent studying at university.
- Introduce free prescriptions and hospital car parking.
- Increase the number of GP training places from 3,500 a year to 5,000.
The Conservatives’ five-year plan announced last year would:
- Raise the NHS budget to £149bn by 2023-24.
- Boris Johnson says he wants to recruit an extra 6,000 GPs.
The Liberal Democrats have promised:
- A penny on income tax will be introduced to raise extra money for mental health, public health and social care.
- Jo Swinson’s party says it will also invest £11bn in mental health services.
New NHS data shows that one in six patients waited longer than four hours in A&E in England during October – the worst-ever performance since the four-hour target was introduced in 2004.
Some 83.6 per cent of patients arriving at A&E were treated or admitted in four hours.
The target is 95 per cent but it has not been met since July 2015.