Welwyn Hatfield MP launches ‘Make Healthcare Local’ campaign

PUBLISHED: 09:11 07 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:11 07 February 2018

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps handing over his outline plan to Nick Carver, chief executive of the East and North Herts NHS Trust. Picture: Mr Shapps' office.

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps handing over his outline plan to Nick Carver, chief executive of the East and North Herts NHS Trust. Picture: Mr Shapps' office.

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Welwyn Hatfield’s MP has officially launched a campaign to increase the healthcare services available in the borough.

Grant Shapps unveiled his ‘Make Healthcare Local’ scheme by handing the outline plan to Nick Carver, chief executive of the East and North Herts NHS Trust.

Among the key aims is reintroducing access to some A&E services at the New QEII Hospital, as well as locally providing services like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, dementia care and improving access to stroke care.

He said: “At a time when the borough’s population is growing and therefore demand for public services is increasing, it cannot be right for the East and North Herts NHS Trust and Clinical Commissioning Groups to be relocating services only to the Lister.”

Mr Shapps explained that rather than needing to fund all of the services, the campaign is effectively a “tug-of-war” to bring those that have been moved elsewhere back to the area.

He said that practically it will be multi-faceted, and will include a petition, as well as meetings with the trust and health ministers.

It will also involve Parliamentary debates and commissioning academic research into best practice in hospitals.

“The distancing of healthcare is making it harder for friends and family to provide support, which is so important when a loved one is fragile and vulnerable in hospital,” he said.

“In short, we believe that the current location of many medical services is detrimental to the health of Welwyn Hatfield constituents and that it needs to change.”

As part of the campaign a new website www.MakeHealthcareLocal.org has been launched today (Wednesday, February 7), where people can sign the petition and share their own stories with the local NHS.

Mr Shapps said that in 2010, local health chiefs pledged to maintain a “local A&E”, as well as a midwife-led maternity unit in WGC.

He continued: “Sadly, no sooner had the ink dried on that agreement, than health bosses went back on their word, closing both these services, and reneging on a deal to include beds inside the New QEII Hospital.

“Although time has moved on, the healthcare issues confronting Welwyn Hatfield have not changed.”

WGC’s Dennis Lewis, president of the Community Voluntary Service (CVS), said downgrading the QEII Hospital to an Urgent Care Centre has not gone to plan.

“It hasn’t worked out I think as the trust hoped,” he told the Welwyn Hatfield Times.

“Also, the CCG is in fact the purse strings’ holder – they fund services in this area.

“I hope they will also come under pressure from this campaign.”

He added that a key problem for residents is transport up to Lister Hospital in Stevenage, which the CVS attempts to mitigate, but that would be eased with local accessibility.

A spokeswoman for East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group said it is difficult to comment on a campaign that it has not yet seen, but stressed NHS funding, medical experts and resources are limited.

She also acknowledged that many patients should be treated locally, including in their own homes or nursing homes, and said advances in treatment mean that the New QEII treats around 400 people each month as day cases.

The spokeswoman continued: “There are times when specialist hospital care is vital. It takes a hospital of a certain size to attract highly-qualified staff and support specialised services.

“By bringing together inpatient care from across the area, we have invested in services which are saving lives and preventing life-long disability – such as the specialist stroke unit at the Lister Hospital.

“Although this means that sometimes patients will have to travel a little further for their treatment for a short period of time, the quality of that treatment, care and recovery rates have improved.”

Local Labour leader, borough councillor Kieran Thorpe, said he supports any attempts to reverse “Conservative decimation” of the NHS, but said it is important to note that “there is no such thing as a ‘some A&E’, there is either an A&E or there is not”.

He added: “If this is simply another attempt to make local political capital against a backdrop of a Conservative government failing our NHS then I will be very disappointed.”

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