Christmas Adjournment — [David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:07 pm on 20th December 2018.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:07 pm, 20th December 2018

I am grateful to the hon. Lady. We have learned that people have been moving on to WH Smith terms and conditions, as new employees. Of course, we are talking about minimum wage jobs, and highly skilled people are currently working across the postal service, so it is detrimental right across the board.

I would like the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kelly Tolhurst, to become more active in the process. We are told as we go through the consultation that many things are commercially confidential, and I respect that; but she must scrutinise the figures, looking particularly at the predicted footfall, and ensure that the evidence is robust. If public services such as the Post Office are downgraded, clearly my community will miss out on that vital service, but so will the wider economy, which benefits from people coming into the city and using the post office at Lendal. I trust that even at this hour the Post Office will take note of those serious concerns about the withdrawal of business and the inaccessibility of the building, and reconsider the decision for the sake of residents.

Bootham Park hospital is a is a lovely, iconic building that was built in 1777 as a mental health hospital, which has served our city. Its doors closed in 2015, three working days after a decision by the Care Quality Commission. I have debated that issue, and the failures that took place, in this House, but my concern is how the site is being disposed of by NHS Property Services and the Health Minister.

Services closed last year and the site became available and was put on the market. The clinical commissioning group was asked whether it had any requirement for the site. It said, “No, because we’re building a new mental health hospital that is due for completion in 2020.” The site was therefore to be disposed of but, as the “for sale” sign went up, the acute trust based next to Bootham Park hospital said, “Hang on a minute—we have urgent clinical needs that cannot be addressed because our campus is too small. We therefore need to ensure that transitional care is built on the site.”

The trust wants to put physiotherapy services on to that site. As a former physiotherapist, I understand how important it is to ensure that we have proper transitional care and address the serious delayed discharges that happen at the hospital. Key worker accommodation could also be put on the site. We are planning a One Public Estate bid to put 190 housing units on the site, which is supported across all political parties, health providers, the York Civic Trust, Historic England and the local authority. We will also put dementia care and extra care facilities on the site. There is an incredible opportunity to address some of the real challenges to our health service by releasing that space to health services.

At the same, the “for sale” notice has been put up to earn a capital receipt by turning the site into more luxury homes and a luxury hotel. We seriously do not need either in our city. We urgently need health facilities. I raise this today following a distressing meeting with the Minister for Health earlier this week, who told me that he was considering not pausing the process and proceeding with the sale of the site. The people of my community will face real health challenges in the future if the sale continues, so the sale is therefore clinically detrimental.

The reality is that if people are held back in hospital because there is no transitional care for them, other people will not be able to access healthcare. We saw a real crisis in York last year—the trust itself described how bad things got when it called the situation a war zone—when the hospital was just not big enough to deal with the local population, which is seriously growing; there will be another 10,000 people by 2030. It is therefore absolutely crucial that the Health Minister pauses this process and looks at the health needs of my community, to ensure that we have the right facilities in the right place for the future.

I will close by talking about Bootham Crescent. Many will know that it has been there since 1932 and is a site of real historic interest to the footballing world. I have learned so much in the last few weeks about, for instance, the tunnels that run under the pitch. Fans used to travel down them at half time to get to the other end. I understand that all sorts happened in those tunnels; I will leave that to the imagination of hon. Members. The site will be disposed of as York City move into their new ground next season, which we hope will bring success; they definitely need it. We want to ensure that the site is utilised for the benefit of our city.

We also want recognition of the site’s social history over nearly a century—when listing sites of interest we should not only look at physical structures but think about that social history—including the team, which originally came out of Rowntree’s, and all the social history of York that surrounds it. We should ensure that we have a real memory of all that has taken place on that site, which will honour our city as it moves forward. These spaces in our city have such significance to York. It is really important that they are dealt with delicately as we move forward.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak, Mr Robertson. I wish everyone a very peaceful Christmas. It is a time of great reflection on all that is ahead of us and the difficult choices that we have to make. We preside over a country that is so divided at this time. I trust that the unity that Christmas brings can also bring unity to our nation.