I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the issue of accident and emergency provision at Milton Keynes hospital, which serves my constituents and indeed some of your constituents, Mr Speaker. The Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, my hon. Friend Mark Lancaster, and I have joined forces with one of our excellent local newspapers, the Milton Keynes Citizen, to campaign for a new A and E centre.
The issue is simply one of space. Our hospital was built in the early 1980s and the A and E department was designed for approximately 20,000 patients a year. With population growth and other increases in A and E usage, it is now dealing with well over three times that number each year, and very soon it will reach four times that number.
At this point, I would like to put on the record my deep appreciation of and admiration for the many dedicated staff at the hospital. Although there are certainly long-standing problems in parts of the NHS that have rightly been highlighted and addressed, not least by my hon. Friend Jeremy Lefroy, it is too easy to overlook the fact that the vast majority of NHS staff do an excellent job and deeply care for their patients. That is certainly what I have found on visiting Milton Keynes hospital.
However, given an existing population of some 250,000, the accident and emergency centre is already too small. With more than 20,000 housing permissions in place locally over the next 10 years or so and in the light of demographic changes, we will have a larger elderly population and there will be a constant upward demand on A and E services.
It is also pertinent to mention that the hospital site includes an urgent care centre, opened as part of the Darzi plans a few years ago. Although it was set up with the very best of intentions, far from reducing demand on the A and E department, it has led to an increase because, understandably, people can become confused about where best to go for treatment.
The emergency care intensive support team recently reviewed the A and E centre and recommended that the NHS trust should seek capital support for what it calls a “common front door” provision. I am happy to report that all the relevant local stakeholders have developed plans for a single-point-of-access system in which those who need the full A and E treatment get it and those with less serious ailments get proper and timely treatment without being pushed from pillar to post.
The campaign that my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North and I have launched has received strong local backing. Milton Keynes council recently unanimously backed it, and there is a large and growing number of signatories to the petition that has been launched.
I fully appreciate that it is not within the gift of the Deputy Leader of the House to write out a cheque for the new centre, but I hope he will relay the points that I have made to his colleagues in the Department of Health and that my contribution today has underlined the importance of this bid. It is now for the hospital to submit its detailed bid in the usual way, and I hope it receives a favourable and timely response.