Absolutely. North Middlesex is just the first hospital to reach absolute crisis point, but I am well aware that other hospitals, particularly in outer London, are heading down a similar path and facing real difficulties. If we consider A&E waiting times, we see that hospitals are sliding into that difficult scenario.
Junior doctors and trainees have been left unsupervised in North Middlesex hospital’s A&E department at night, without competent senior support—in fact, no consultant has been available from 11 o’clock onwards. My hon. Friend Ms Abbott referred to such cases. In one instance, one commode was available for 100 patients in the whole of the emergency department. Staff raised concerns about the lack of vital medical equipment, including missing leads for cardiac machines so they could not get an instant read-out. Trolleys in the resuscitation area lacked vital equipment. There was an oppressive, overbearing culture at the hospital that meant staff did not feel confident in raising concerns, and they even stopped reporting incidents of staff shortages, as management had not responded to them in the past.
The CQC report reinforces the findings of Health Education England and the General Medical Council. At a high-risk summit in May, the GMC threatened to withdraw junior doctor post-graduate trainees if the numbers of A&E staff and middle-ranking doctors and consultants were not increased. That would effectively close the busiest emergency department in London. This is an unprecedented situation. The future of North Mid A&E has been put at risk. Even medical trainees at the hospital are not prepared to recommend the A&E for treatment to their friends and family. In interviews with Health Education England, they said that that was
“because they felt the department was unsafe.”
My constituents have had to suffer the consequences of shocking mismanagement and a lack of leadership at North Mid. The chief executive is now on leave and I understand she is stepping down. Although there is a lack of leadership, she cannot be held solely responsible for what has happened. The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have told us repeatedly that the NHS is safe in their hands, yet huge pressures have been placed upon North Mid due to a lack of central Government funding. Patient care has suffered further as a direct result of the hospital not having enough equipment, consultants, doctors and nurses. It has had to spend large parts of its budget on locums and agency nurses.
What is the Government’s solution to ensuring that hospital departments, such as those at North Mid, do not remain dangerously understaffed? Is it to divert a large amount of funding to help to solve this situation and put patients first? No: they decide to go to war with junior doctors over their contracts and abolish NHS bursaries for student nurses, while we have hospitals going abroad to try to recruit staff. That is an insult to dedicated professionals who deserve our admiration, respect and support. The Government’s actions will discourage the future frontline staff we so desperately need.
The NHS is facing a huge financial challenge, so a commitment to spend an extra £350 million a week, or even £120 million a week, on the NHS in lieu of our EU membership was clearly a very attractive offer to our constituents. NHS England needs to plug a funding gap of £30 billion a year by 2021 and a few months ago it was revealed that nearly every hospital in the country was in deficit. We are obviously not going to get £350 million or £120 million a week and I think that that was always known by the leave campaigners. In fact, the Government are seeking to suck out £5 billion in savings through the sustainability and transformation programme. I know that savings and efficiencies, particularly in back-office services, can and must be found, but not at the expense of patient safety.
“not be delivered without putting patient care at risk…
will mean cuts to staff, cuts to pay, rationing of treatments. And it will be patients who suffer.”
Her analysis is spot on. We have witnessed the disastrous effects of this course of action in Enfield. We need more investment in North Middlesex University hospital, and in the NHS in general, not less. I join my parliamentary colleagues on the Labour Benches in calling on the Government to increase spending on our NHS. It is most regrettable that, given the urgent need for more funding and the very real and justifiable concerns of people in Enfield, they should have been led to be believe Brexit could possibly mean major new funding for the NHS.
In closing, I think I corrected myself wrongly. In the run-in to the 2010 general election, the current Prime Minister was, of course, the Leader of the Opposition, and he made a promise to keep our hospital open, which, when he became Prime Minister, he then closed. That kind of behaviour is very similar to what the leave campaigners did in promising money that does not really exist. It is hoodwinking the voter and it is not acceptable. It desperately undermines the voters’ faith in politics and democratic processes.