General Practice: Large Housing Developments — [Peter Dowd in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:57 am on 29th March 2022.

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Photo of Jane Hunt Jane Hunt Conservative, Loughborough 9:57 am, 29th March 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd. I congratulate my hon. Friend Andrew Selous on securing a very popular debate. I declare that I am still a borough councillor for Charnwood Borough Council, which I will refer to. I am also the chair of the all-party parliamentary group for district councils.

As the Minister can see, he has many friends on the Government Benches, but we suffer some frustrations, and I look to him for advice and assistance. We have two main frustrations: one he can clearly do something about, and the other we need his help with in tackling it with the Department for Health and Social Care. We have GP contracts and the related health profile, and we have planning law—and never the twain shall meet, it would seem. I would like to do something about that.

I would like to be able to support housing developments where they are appropriate and needed and of the size and type required for the local area. More importantly, I want local communities to be created. Three thousand houses in one place is a village, not a housing estate, and I would like to create communities with proper infrastructure. I would also like to support my GPs and constituents. I have had many meetings with GPs in my constituency over recent months. They have worked incredibly hard, particularly during covid. We talk about going to see “our GP” an awful lot, rather than going to see a medical professional in a medical centre, perhaps run by a GP. There is something that needs to be done there.

In my constituency, I could talk about the village of Sileby, which has grown hugely, or about Loughborough or Mountsorrel, but I will talk about Shepshed and west Loughborough. The town of Shepshed has grown enormously over recent years, with the addition of thousands of houses. In the Garendon estate, right next door in west Loughborough, 3,000 homes are due to be built. There are two GP surgeries in the whole area and so, whatever they try to do, the situation is completely unsustainable.

I have talked to the clinical commissioning group and the local health service. Everybody is keen to do something, but there is a definite reluctance, because of the risk factor. There is less incentive to run a GP surgery than to just work in one or be a locum; there is a lot of risk involved. We need to take that into account; we need to consider the cost and the risk of extending a GP surgery or starting a new one.

My right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers spoke about the lack of a five-year housing land supply. That is absolutely crippling my constituency. We need to stop indiscriminate development that has no forward planning. Planning staff in the council work hard on local plans—they are looking forward to 2036—and on delivery, but without a five-year land supply, it is impossible. The intentions are good but in practice we are not delivering in Loughborough.

The Conservative manifesto stated:

“Infrastructure first: We will amend planning rules so that the infrastructure—roads, schools, GP surgeries—comes before people move into new homes.”

We must do that. The housing infrastructure fund has not created the atmosphere and the momentum we were expecting. I would like to see more.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire on the recommendation as regards the number of patients per GP. I also ask the Minister to consider age profiles. The people who live in the Shepshed area have an older age profile and, generally speaking, older patients need GP surgeries more.

We need cultural change—a shift towards seeing a nurse or another professional in a medical centre, not necessarily having a face-to-face appointment with a GP. We absolutely must start five-year land supply. I would also like to see feasibility studies and infrastructure funded up front, either by the developer or through the fund, so that feasibility studies of GP surgeries do not require GPs to stump up the money first.