NHS Winter Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:17 pm on 10th January 2018.

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Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 3:17 pm, 10th January 2018

I regret that Opposition Members have continued to politicise this issue. I speak as someone who has worked in the health service for more than 20 years. I worked in A&E under the previous Labour Government and coped with the winter pressures—when there were ambulances queuing round the block, when major incidents were declared because we could not take in any more patients, and when patients were cared for in corridors, including cupboards, and left lying on floors on makeshift mattresses. To continue to blame one Government or the other does nothing for patients or staff. If we continue down that route, we will be here not just next year or the year after, but in five, 10 or 15 years’ time.

This is not just about throwing money at the problem. We have heard today that Wales gets 8% more funding per person than the rest of the UK, yet it is also facing pressures this winter. Hospitals there are also cancelling operations and appointments, so this is clearly about not just funding, but what is done with the money.

I pay tribute to my local health service. In a debate at this time last year, I asked why the two trusts in my constituency were not coping when a neighbouring trust in Worthing was able to cope with virtually all its patients. A year later, after the imposition of special measures, after the CQC put in extra resources, and after a new management team were put in place, I am proud that both my local hospitals have coped with not just a 6% increase during non-winter periods, but an 11% increase in the number of patients not just visiting A&E but being admitted to A&E. They have not had to cancel hospital appointments, they have not had patients waiting in corridors and they have not had ambulances queueing round the block.

That tells me that this is not just about how much money people put into the service; it is about what they do with that money. Let us look briefly at what my local trust has done to stop the crisis which seems to have happened in other parts of the country. NHS staff, including doctors, nurses, porters and ambulance staff, have worked tirelessly throughout, and I pay tribute to them. It is also about the management, and the new management teams in Eastbourne and Brighton have done tremendously well to turn those services around.

It is also about better planning. My local community health trust has seen a 38% reduction in delayed discharges, so going into the winter period, it had an occupancy rate of about 84% in acute hospitals. That was achieved by working together with community services. A major Government or departmental reorganisation is not needed; change can be achieved by working locally, which is what the trust is doing.

This is also about working with social services on social care. Opening up 40 community beds in Newhaven has taken a huge amount of pressure off local hospitals, and both my trusts say that the emergency money provided this winter—nearly £2 million to each hospital trust—has enabled them to keep those beds open. It has enabled patients to be admitted to the acute centre for treatment, and then moved to the community hospital and be discharged safely and securely.

We need to look at capacity. If there is going to be an 11% increase year on year in the number of patients coming through the door, the solution is not just providing more money; it is about looking at the service and how it is delivered. My local trusts have done it, and there is no reason why that cannot happen in the rest of the country. Once again, I pay huge tribute to Brighton and Eastbourne Hospitals.