That is greatly appreciated, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Despite the dedicated and incredible efforts of local NHS staff in my constituency, I see health inequalities on a daily basis, and many of my constituents experience profound access challenges to health services in my constituency and elsewhere across Cumbria, caused in part by our inadequate transport infrastructure, but also by a clearly insufficient profile of investment in local services. So far, I am afraid to say, my calls for improvement have fallen upon deaf ears.
In north and west as well as east Cumbria, we are currently subject to the ongoing success regime process. Funding for the important second phase of the West Cumberland hospital has not yet been released by the Government, and the communities I represent are gravely concerned about the uncertain future facing our local health services, including beds not just at the West Cumberland, but at our local community hospitals in Keswick, Millom, Maryport and elsewhere—and that is before we even consider the profound challenges to primary care, too.
In spite of the challenges that we face and the strength of feeling in my constituency, the Health Secretary, who is no longer in his place, has paid not one visit to the West Cumberland hospital, or any of our community hospitals on whose behalf I speak tonight, in the four years in which he has held his position. Moreover, he has refused my invitation to visit West Cumbria to see for himself the unique challenges that we face in our part of the world. Without visiting the hospital, experiencing the transport inadequacies and seeing the vital work of consultant-led accident and emergency, maternity and paediatric services that the West Cumberland hospital provides, the Health Secretary cannot and does not understand the necessity for his immediate intervention in our troubled health economy.
Most recently, owing to the fact that the Health Secretary would not come to us, my constituents and I—health campaigners from across the piece—decided to go to him. West Cumbrian health campaigners, including Mike Bulman, Mahesh Dhebar, Rachel Holliday, Siobhan Gearing and the fantastic Pamela McGowan from the News & Star newspaper, planned to make a 700 mile round trip to London to meet the Health Secretary, to outline the challenges that our health economy faces and to put our case to him. However, at short notice, but coincidentally on the day after he announced his ambition to stand as leader of the Conservative party, the Health Secretary cancelled the meeting. The decision to cancel that meeting was seen by my community as the calculated insult that I am afraid it surely was.
I led the local campaigners instead to the Department of Health to meet the gracious and approachable Under-Secretary responsible for care quality—the Minister in his place today. The delegation handed to him a confidential document containing the cases given to local campaigners by local mothers about babies who were likely to have suffered fatalities—and the mothers maternal fatalities, too—if consultant-led maternity services had been unavailable at the West Cumberland hospital in Whitehaven. The Government are well aware that consultant-led maternity services at that hospital are non-negotiable and absolutely essential—whatever the successor regime that comes forward in the immediate future. Any other option would compromise the safety of local mothers and their babies.
It is clear to me, to my community and to Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, who visited my constituency only a few months ago, that consultant-led services must be retained and improved at West Cumberland hospital. Removing those services from Whitehaven would be dangerous—
The debate stood adjourned (
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (
That at this day’s sitting the Motions in the name of the Leader of the Opposition may be proceeded with, though opposed, until 8.00pm;
Question agreed to.