It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd. I thank my hon. Friend Andrew Selous for securing this really important debate.
Being able to access GP services is an incredibly important issue for my constituents. In fact, I receive almost as much correspondence on that issue as I do any other topic, and my constituents have expressed a real frustration with the difficulty of being able to secure a local appointment with their GP, as well as not being able to see their GP face to face as much as they would like. I appreciate that this is no fault of the GPs themselves, and I would like to put on record my thanks and pay tribute to all the GPs across my constituency, who have done an extraordinary job over the past 24 months—and indeed also worked incredibly hard before that, and continue to do so.
I recently met some GPs from the Modality Partnership, who told me that much more needs to be done if we are to deliver the level and provision of service that the public so desperately want. It is clear that approving large-scale housing developments will only make the problems worse, when we allow the housing developments to take place with no thought to increasing healthcare services by providing physical facilities and revenue expenditure for employing and recruiting more GPs. That is currently a big concern for many of my constituents, right across Keighley and Ilkley.
Only last year, the Labour-run Bradford Council proposed in its draft local plan to increase the number of houses to be built right across my community by 3,000. That includes 314 new houses in Ilkley and Ben Rhydding; 181 new houses in Addingham; 188 houses in Steeton and Eastburn; 191 houses in Riddlesden; and 204 houses in Haworth and Cross Roads—I could go on. In the context of this debate, those proposals will have a damaging impact on the numerous GP services and facilities that many constituents are still finding it very difficult to access.
We can look at Long Lee, a small community on the outskirts of Keighley, where Bradford Council proposes in its local plan to build an extra 236 new houses. That will have an extra damaging impact on the local GP practice, which is already at capacity. Luckily, a recent housing application for that area was postponed; I can only hope that local healthcare provision will be a vital consideration when that housing application is put forward to the committee again.
In Silsden, the town is currently facing many housing developments, including from Barratt Homes, Linden Homes, Skipton Properties, and Countrywide, with an application that has recently been put forward. More recently, a 140-unit proposal has been put forward by Persimmon Homes, which is a live application. The town is being inundated and services just cannot cope. The town is being asked to put up with too many houses when the local healthcare provision cannot cope as it is already at capacity. It is completely wrong, and something must be done.
I commend the work being done by Silsden’s District Councillor Rebecca Whitaker, who is leading the fight against these proposals and standing up for our local services. I am supportive of the work being done by my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt, who has, as the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, launched an inquiry into local GP provision. I wholeheartedly hope that that inquiry looks at how we can make sure that expenditure is put into both capital and revenue in order to get better facilities put in place, and also that recruitment for GPs and GP services is given as much emphasis as possible.
My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire made the important point that when planning applications are being considered, local healthcare service providers should have a statutory duty and responsibility to have a say in those applications, so that we can ensure that capacity is delivered for healthcare at a local level. When local authorities put forward their draft local plan, there should be an onus on them to have at least a conversation, but also to explore the facts about where capacity lies beforehand. In my area, when Bradford Council put forward their draft local plan last year, it had not even looked at the capacity available within local healthcare facilities. That cannot be acceptable.
Like my hon. Friend David Johnston, I make the point about where accountability sits and whether it lies with the Government, local authorities, GP services, local communities or housing developers when applications come forward. In summary, it is vital that we acknowledge these issues, as we cannot continue this endless cycle of allowing large-scale housing developments or additional housing to be built in small communities, producing a dramatic impact, without any acknowledgment of general practice capacity.