Apologies for not giving notice in the normal way, Mr Davies; my hon. Friend Sir David Amess did give me permission to speak in his debate.
The short version of my speech is “Thank you”—not to my hon. Friend, or to yourself, Mr Davies, but to the people who work at Southend Hospital. It is impossible to thank all 4,500 personally. I would like to say that I went to Southend Hospital last night as an assiduous Member of Parliament, purely with the intention of thanking them; sadly, I went to see a family member in A&E, who is thankfully now out. Quite often, constituents see politicians as somewhat remote, but most of the time I have spent at Southend Hospital has been either as a patient myself—I spent three months in hospital only a few years back—or visiting one of my family members.
We are fortunate to have Southend Hospital so close by, but I am unfortunate enough to have to visit it in a non-professional capacity far too frequently. The people at Southend Hospital provided fantastic care for Jack Thompson, my father-in-law, in his final days. As a Member of Parliament, I quite often find myself visiting constituents. There is such compassion and care during those final hours, as there is care and compassion in every ward, whether that is for the newborns in Neptune ward or for people with dementia in Wilson ward.
My hon. Friend mentioned the hospital’s stars awards, which brought him, me and our right hon. Friend Mr Francois together as local MPs. It is amazing to see the depth of those individuals’ compassion and commitment to their roles. As an individual, I have seen that small things can mean the difference between an average person and a fantastic, exceptional person. It might be a cup of tea, or explaining for the third time something that is bleeding obvious, but which, to a parent who is so stressed by what is happening, is hard to take in. Or it might be nurses who put themselves in really troubling jobs—for example, dealing with parents of newborn babies who have passed away, and having to do that day in, day out. The difference that those people can make is absolutely amazing, and one person won a stars award for dealing with those types of situation. That takes an incredibly special person. I thank all those individuals.
I also thank Clare Panniker, who is leading the three hospitals tremendously well. The transformation programme is fascinating and fantastic, at a time when we have more money going into our three local hospitals, as well as more nurses and more doctors. However, there still needs to be more change.
In all candour, I was disappointed with the Southend local authority for referring the whole of the transformation programme, because, like my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West, I trust clinicians. We did have issues around the stroke unit, but they were being dealt with by Paul Guyler, the lead clinician. There were and still are issues on transport, but the idea that the whole transformation programme is wrong is incorrect. I know that my hon. Friend Vicky Ford is effervescing with rage at Southend council. I do not want to be overly dramatic, but she felt that lives had been lost in Chelmsford because we had not got on with the capital expenditure and the specialisation across the three hospitals that gives our families and our constituents better care. Let us push back on some of the issues, but let us also get on with it, and further improve what is a fantastic local hospital.