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Backbench Business — Summer Adjournment

Part of Child Benefit Entitlement (Disqualification of Non-UK EU Nationals) – in the House of Commons at 4:17 pm on 22nd July 2014.

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Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Conservative, Kingswood 4:17 pm, 22nd July 2014

I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak, and I thank the Backbench Business Committee for finding the time for this important debate, which has become a highlight of the parliamentary calendar. We can hear MPs discussing a range of local and national issues—a smorgasbord, as Chris Bryant called it.

Today I want to speak about one local issue, which is of tremendous importance to my constituents. Cossham hospital now lies just outside the Kingswood constituency, but it is very much at the heart of local people’s feelings. People in Kingswood have come there to be born, to die, to be treated and to be cared for. My mother was a nurse for 40 years. She was inspired by the idea of nursing in the 1960s when, as a child, she had her tonsils out. She then went on to have a career in the NHS. I had the pleasure of attending an ante-natal class at Cossham on Monday—[Hon. Members: “Hear! Hear! Congratulations.”] Thank you very much.

Cossham hospital is currently facing a threat, which relates to a promised minor injuries unit. Before I go into that, let me give Members a bit of context. The history of Cossham hospital is inextricably linked with the history of the House of Commons. The land was gifted by Kingswood MP Handel Cossham who actually died in the House of Commons Library. He was a collier who owned a lot of land, and he decided to gift this land to set up a hospital. When people talk about Cossham hospital, they are talking about not just a superb NHS facility but a hospital that belongs to the people of Kingswood. A huge amount of time and effort has been invested in this local facility.

Back in 2004, local NHS health care bosses at North Bristol NHS Trust decided to close Cossham. It was thanks to the enormous campaign and the marches of the Save Cossham Hospital group, which was then run by Graham Kennedy, that the local health bosses changed their mind and decided to keep the hospital open. I met the commissioner to talk about that decision, and he said that at the time they had been absolutely determined to close Cossham but that it was superb that it was open and that that had been exactly the right thing to do. That is worrying, because local health care commissioners who admit they have made mistakes in the past are, I believe, going on to make those mistakes in future.

After Cossham hospital was threatened with closure in 2004, the Bristol health services plan decided to keep it open, offering a wide range of services and a £19 million refurbishment, which has now happened. I am incredibly grateful for that refurbishment, but a minor injuries unit was also promised for Cossham hospital and that has yet to be delivered. South Gloucestershire clinical commissioning group is holding off the decision on whether to put in that minor injuries unit until October.

My worry for Kingswood and the eastern region of Bristol is that we will simply no longer have the health care facilities we deserve in our region. The decision to downgrade Frenchay hospital accident and emergency was, I believe, a disgrace. My hon. Friend the Member for Filton and Bradley Stoke (Jack Lopresti) and I have campaigned and called for several debates on the closure of Frenchay A and E and we are continuing to campaign to ensure that the community hospital at Frenchay is delivered for 2016. People in our area of Bristol and South Gloucestershire need the health care facility that a minor injuries unit would provide. It simply is not good enough for them to travel all the way around Bristol to go to the new super-hospital at Southmead. It is too far, and in some cases it might endanger people’s lives.

The minor injuries unit is still there to be put in and the room is empty. I call on South Gloucestershire CCG to think again and to listen to the voices of local people, particularly the Save Cossham Hospital group, which is now ably run by Reg Bennett. Reg has skilfully taken the politics out of the issue so that we have Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and the UK Independence party members lined up and agreeing that we need a minor injuries unit at Cossham hospital.

I have more than 1,000 petition signatures that I would like to give to Reg and the group to add to the thousands they have already collected. They are having a local meeting at Warmley community hall this Saturday. Unfortunately, for personal family reasons to do with the antenatal classes I mentioned earlier I will be unable to attend that meeting, but my message to all those who attend is that they should keep fighting. As their local MP, I am absolutely determined that they should get the minor injuries unit. If they do not, there is a clear and present danger that local people in my area will be let down. Everybody pays for the NHS through their taxes and they deserve health care facilities at local points of need. They should keep fighting for Cossham hospital and for an MIU. I hope that the campaign will be successful and I will back it all the way.