I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. West Cumberland Hospital in my constituency has faced significant challenges over many decades in recruiting and retaining enough doctors and nurses. It was because of those challenges that our midwifery unit was under threat of losing 24-hour, seven-day-a-week consultant-led maternity care. In a rural area such as mine, abundant with farms—I am proud to support the National Farmers Union’s Back British Farming Day today—that could mean a two-hour journey on a single-carriageway road up to Carlisle hospital, often being held up by slow-moving vehicles. Having been through four childbirths myself, I simply cannot agree that having to travel an extra 40 miles is an acceptable modern-day service, especially if the mother experiences complications.
I was pleased that the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend Mr Dunne, came to West Cumberland Hospital to see the challenges for himself, and that the Secretary of State came to the hospital in Carlisle, Cumberland Infirmary, to hear for himself the concerns of clinicians. Not one mentioned the 1% pay cap, but concerns were expressed about morale, recruitment and retention, and how to ensure that enough doctors and nurses join the health sector. In my role on the Education Committee, I look forward to considering how we can recruit doctors and nurses through technical and academic routes. I am really pleased by the huge investment that has been made in our hospital and our NHS trust.