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The National Health Service

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 3:56 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 3:56 pm, 23rd October 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Sir Bernard Jenkin.

One of my constituents had a stoma operation in the summer, and he received a letter a fortnight ago from the private company that supplies his stoma bags. This letter said that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the company hoped to be able to continue the supply—not guaranteed but hoped. This is completely unacceptable. He had his operation under the NHS on medical advice, but the stoma bags are supplied by a private company. In other words, the aftercare is privatised.

Ministers must accept responsibility for these essential supplies. I do not know how many thousands of people would be affected if these companies were not able to supply the stoma bags, and I cannot imagine how awful it would be for them to sit with faeces oozing from their stomachs if Ministers cannot make sure this is properly sorted out.

The Government simply have to get a grip. They must stop the constant process of privatisation, undermining and attrition of the NHS. The last nine years have seen a constant stream of salami-slicing in my constituency. NHS managers struggle with inadequate resources, recruitment difficulties and inadequate funds. Staff are doing an excellent job, but they are under huge pressure at the moment.

To deal with this, managers constantly reorganise services in the hope of squeezing more money out of the system. None of the 20 refurbishments announced by the Secretary of State will benefit my constituents, not in Bishop and not when they go to Darlington or Durham. Darlington Memorial Hospital, in particular, needs proper attention. It is a collapsing building with huge problems, and it needs to be rebuilt.

In 2013 we lost the maternity ward from Bishop Hospital. In 2017 the CCG had to launch a fundraising campaign to raise money for an MRI scanner. The public responded very generously, but we cannot only have new kit if the public get the campaign funds together. That way, we will have much better healthcare in wealthy areas than in poor areas.

Last year, there was a proposal to close ward 6 at Bishop Auckland Hospital, which through energetic campaigning we have staved off. Now, the closure of Bishop’s stroke rehab wards is proposed. No doubt some of their work would be done in the community, but other patients would have to go to Durham hospital, which is already crowded. All the time, we see my constituents having to travel further—to Durham, to Darlington, sometimes to Stockton, with journeys taking an hour. This debate is not about buses, but the fact is that Ministers must get their heads around the reality of delivering healthcare in rural areas. The rhetoric simply does not match the reality. We have also lost one of the two wards at the Richardson Hospital in Barnard Castle, and I have not begun to talk about the problems of getting GP appointments and the terrible difficulties young people have getting the mental healthcare they need.

All this takes place against a background of deprivation and poverty. In one part of my constituency, male healthy life expectancy is 68; in another, it is 54, yet the Government are cutting Durham’s public health budget by £19 million. I was really disappointed—no, angered—when the Prime Minister, during his campaign to become Tory leader, said that he wanted to cut taxes for the top-earning 3 million people, putting £6,000 into the back pockets of people earning £80,000 while my constituents have to go to one of the seven food banks that have opened in recent years.