Bill Presented — Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Bill
Guy Opperman (Hexham, Conservative)
At this moment, Mr Speaker, you must be feeling like Shakespeare’s Henry V at Agincourt, and I suggest you will look back on
wisdom when she introduced the debate. The other doctor in the House, my hon. Friend Dr Lee, also made a fine contribution. We then heard from my hon. Friend Anne Milton, who is now on the Whips Bench but previously distinguished the Department of Health, and throughout the past hour and a half a plethora of Labour Members have indulged us with their oratory and commitment to community hospitals. Finally, I welcome the new Minister who, as you prophesied, Mr Speaker, has a glittering career in front of her. Those were fine words, although I believe that you also admonished her most robustly for being a little too chatty when she was a Parliamentary Private Secretary.
I strongly look forward to hearing the gentle, reticent, shy, self-effacing style that the Minister has characteristically formed throughout the past two and a half years as an MP. Some have described her as Nottinghamshire’s modern Boadicea of Broxtowe, which may stick in the future. If she is able to survive the cake-fests of south Dorset, and future requests to visit many a hospital, she will surely go far.
I must make a brief declaration because I would not be in this House were it not for my campaigning as a lawyer on behalf of community hospitals, and the fact that my grandmother was an NHS matron. Furthermore, over the past two and a half years, I have probably spent more time in hospital than any other Member of Parliament, conducting an in-depth study of all aspects of NHS treatment. Due to the fact that I was not a very good jockey, I have conducted an in-depth study of orthopaedic skills because I repeatedly seemed to come a cropper at the second last at Stratford, and various other delightful destinations. I am also fundraiser for various charitable organisations in my constituency—the Great North Air Ambulance service and the National Brain Appeal.
The subject of the debate is community hospitals. Amid the requests for preservation, strengthening and support, I want to enlighten the House with some success stories. The Haltwhistle hospital in Northumberland—a small community hospital in the heart of the town—is being completely rebuilt. There have been efforts to rebuild it for many years, and that is now happening on the same site in exactly the right way. That is what all hon. Members would like for their community hospitals. People in Northumberland would suggest that its integrated care is the way forward. There are standard community beds and care beds, and even one room for the larger patient, which is known in the trade as a bariatric room. That is a proper, integrated, long-term local solution in the community, for the community and involving the community. That must be the way forward.