Kettering general hospital will be well known to the Secretary of State, because he was good enough to visit it a year ago to see the excellent service provided by its doctors, nurses and ancillary staff. The hospital has been in existence for 116 years and it is badly needed and much loved. At one time or other, every resident of Kettering has had a member of their family go through the hospital.
Andy Sawford, my hon. Friend Mr Bone and I have put our party political differences aside and joined forces to campaign for extra investment for the accident and emergency facility at Kettering general hospital, because it is needed by all of our constituents. We are working as one on the issue. The other good news is that both the hospital trust and the local clinical commissioning groups are also working as one on the issue.
I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend Dr Poulter, who is not in his place, for meeting all three of us, together with representatives from the hospital and the CCGs, over the summer. He has been good enough to agree to meet us again on
All the professionals have come together and agreed that, despite their best efforts and despite following the advice of the Department of Health’s intensive support team to the letter, whichever Government are in power would have to face the fact that the A and E at Kettering is, sadly, not fit for purpose and needs extra capital investment. Their bid to the Department of Health will be for £20 million for Kettering A an E and an extra £3 million to create community hubs—in other words, urgent care centres-plus—in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough. The three hon. Members, the CCGs and the hospital trust will make a joint bid for that money when we meet the Minister in January.
The challenge the A and E at Kettering general hospital faces is serving one of the fastest growing populations in the country. In the last decade, Kettering’s population growth ranked 31st out of 348 districts around the country and it had the sixth highest increase in the number of households. Few other parts of the country are growing as fast as the Kettering area, which also has an increasingly ageing population.
The A and E department at Kettering general hospital was constructed in the 1970s for about 25,000 to 30,000 attendances a year. In 2001 attendances had hit 56,000 and that figure is now 85,000. The A and E centre is effectively bursting at the seams, and attendances show absolutely no sign of falling off. Typically, there could be between 170 and 230 attendances a day—the highest has been 260 in a 24-hour period this year.
The professional staff—the clinicians—in the A and E have made multiple operational changes. They have adopted all the best practice ideas provided by the Department’s intensive support team, but the key issue remains the estate and the only way to solve that problem is an injection of capital investment. With that investment and with the development of community facilities in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough, the professional clinicians are confident that the A and E department could at long last start hitting its A and E targets. At the moment, it is treating only 89% —well below the 98% target specified by the Government—of patients within a four-hour period.