I beg to move,
That this House
has considered services at Southend hospital.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I very much welcome my hon. Friend the Minister to his new post in the Department of Health and Social Care. I was on the Select Committee on Health for 10 years, which was probably too long, but during that time—I am bragging a bit—I initiated the debate on obesity, which some people now think they are discovering for the first time. We also dealt with the smoking ban, which I never thought would work, and with passive smoking, allergies and a whole raft of other issues.
I have to say that it is a long time since I heard anything original said about the health service. I have been all around the world and all over the country looking at facilities, and I am left with the conclusion, which I know the House shares, that our national health service is the best in the world. It is the only really nationalised health service that exists. The differences between the two political parties may be a bit blurred, but if it is down to funding, good luck with that issue—the money has to come from somewhere.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend James Duddridge is here to support me. My right hon. Friend Mr Francois and my hon. Friend Rebecca Harris may not be here at the moment, but I feel that they are somehow here in spirit, because the four of us use the facilities at Southend Hospital.
I must take the opportunity to praise the staff at Southend Hospital, who I know only too well are overworked and underpaid. It is a difficult political issue to deal with, but they are so dedicated and they provide an absolutely excellent service. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East and I, and our families, have benefited from care at the hospital. We were so privileged to be at the Hospital Heroes awards ceremony in September, which celebrated the very best of Southend’s healthcare staff and those who go the extra mile for their patients. I congratulate all the winners and nominees and thank them for their dedication, compassion and considerable expertise.
I also praise the volunteers among my Southend West constituents, who give up their time, unpaid, to support the hospital’s work and help others. Those women and men are there day in, day out and week in, week out, giving a little extra help and support to people going into hospital, many of whom are somewhat concerned and stressed about what lies ahead. From befrienders to hospital gardeners to the library service, they should be commended for their invaluable contribution on behalf of patients across Southend.
Southend Hospital and healthcare services throughout Southend are at a crossroads. It could be argued that their future is uncertain. The Minister will be only too well aware of the mid and south Essex sustainability and transformation partnership plan for the reconfiguration of specialist services across hospitals in Essex. I must tell him that I will not support any changes to those services unless they are led by clinicians, not by politicians. It is up to the clinicians to put their heads above the parapet and argue the case for change.
The plans have been referred to the Secretary of State for review. I will not go into the whys and wherefores of what happened, but we have a Conservative-controlled local authority in Southend and I think the Conservatives were particularly concerned about changes to the stroke service, which is under the excellent leadership of Dr Guyler. I am not sure why all the plans have had to be reviewed. If the Minister cannot answer now, perhaps he could write to me to confirm whether there is a possibility, however vague, that we might lose funding as a result of the delay or that the funding we were promised might arrive less quickly. [Interruption.] Does he wish to intervene?