In a debate on healthcare, I made a speech on healthcare in Dover and Deal. We have come a long way in the past five years in getting a fairer share of healtcare.
When I was first campaigning in Dover and Deal, I found that the previous Government's legacy was that they had run down the much-loved Buckland hospital in Dover. Wards had been axed one by one; services had been withdrawn one by one; and the hospital had been decimated for more than a decade. There had been talk of plans to build a new hospital, but they had gone nowhere for the better part of a decade. It was a total disgrace; we did not get a fair share of health care in Dover and Deal.
In addition, an agreement appeared to have been made by the hospital trust in 2006 to take away the out-patient services at Deal's hospital. There were claims of a consultation with the then MP and the then elected representatives to withdraw those out-patient services. So when I was elected I faced a situation where the hospital trust wanted to axe out-patient services and people were very concerned that Deal's hospital was so undermined that it would be lost altogether. That was unacceptable.
What did the Conservatives do about it? Thanks to our funding of the NHS—the amount of money we have put in and the increase in spending in real terms—we managed to get a new hospital being built and it opens in March. That is a real achievement, ensuring that we will have a fairer share of health care back in Dover. After the years of going backwards, we will go forwards, and people in our community will be able to be seen and cared for in our community. Rather than have Deal's hospital being run down and closed, as people feared, because Labour left it teetering on the edge, we campaigned hard. I undertook a large survey across the whole of Deal and I listened to people's views. Thousands responded and we had hundreds in a meeting in a church to listen to the doctors and put the case for keeping the hospital, and now the clinical commissioning group, using its
new funding powers, is ensuring that that hospital is safeguarded for the future. In that way, under the Conservatives, we have safeguarded Deal's hospital and we are getting a new Dover hospital.
We also had difficult times in our local hospital trust—the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust had the CQC come in and investigate. In the past there would have been a cover-up and things would all have been swept under the carpet, just as they were in Staffordshire. That was the disgrace under the previous Government; theshadow Health Secretary oversaw that shameful episode. This Government have been open, honest and frank about the situation, and have ensured that special measures are taken and that we will have more nurses, more investment and better health care as a result. That is an important milestone. It shows not only that we have a new Dover hospital and that we have safeguarded Deal's hospital, but that we have a better trust thanks to the reforms the Government have put in place.
But I think we should go further. I want to see five-star health care in Dover and Deal, so that rather than the cold wards of old, we should have new individual care and recovery suites, which can enable flexibility. People could be there for short-time observation; for step-down care for a week or two, rather than blocking up the acute hospital; for re-ambulation over a two to three-month period; or for much longer-term palliative care or perhaps end-of-life care. I am working with Kent county council, the local CCG and other health stakeholders to examine how we can bring forward that sort of innovative proposal. It will help with NHS funding because it will save money lost through bed-blocking; it will save money because its beds will be less expensive than elsewhere in the NHS; and it will provide a better experience for patients because they will be able to get better and recover within the community.
We need to rethink A and E more generally, by having more local emergency centres. My plan is that at the new Dover Buckland hospital, which opens in March, we should see a local emergency centre being used as an out-of-hours base for the doctors and CCG. It should be beefed up so that it has a much more emergency flavour to it, rather than a minor injuries one, so that more people use it, more people have trust and confidence in it and fewer people will inappropriately admit themselves to A and E down the road in Ashford. In that way, we will be able to get the right kind of cascading, the right level of treatment and the right places, given how our health system works. Such an approach would allow simpler stuff to be carried out more locally in our communities, whereas the more complicated accident and emergency problems would be dealt with in a more centralised A and E unit. That kind of modernisation in how we deal with out-of-hours care and A and E-type care is something I hope we will think about and see more of in future. I do not see this as a left/right issue, just as I do not see community hospitals, which I believe in, as a left/right issue. I see it as being about people who are concerned about localism, and the localisation of health care and bringing it closer to the patient and to the community. That is the way we should be building the future of our NHS. It is a great shame we have seen so much politicisation and weaponisation.
The full debate can be read at this link.
It has been an honour and privilege to serve as Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal. I hope to be re-elected to serve our community for another term.
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