My top priority is health and for the last five years I have seen the NHS, social care and mental health services in Redditch undermined. I asked Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Gwynne to come to Redditch to hear what our needs are and to explain how a Labour Government will do things differently.
First Andrew said hello to people at the café in the Ecumenical Centre asking if they had any points to raise on health and straight away the problems we are having at the Alex came up. Labour are against financially driven centralisation of services and the review that has seen maternity and A&E at the Alex under threat all started to save £200,000 in Worcestershire. He heard from Save the Alex, Dr Gilly Cooper, Cllr Pat Witherspoon, Redditch Friends Together and older people who volunteer in Redditch.
Andrew gave the example of his own constituency where A&E had been downgraded and now the A&E at the neighbouring hospital cannot cope with the number of patients. He knows that downgrading services simply puts pressure elsewhere. When people cannot get a GP appointment or get the right advice from the 111 service they of course attend A&E. And when older people are admitted to hospital they suffer delays in discharge because the care isn't readily available, which means they remain in hospital longer. There are too many people using the hospital because we do not have enough GP's, the 111 service no longer has enough medically trained staff available and the care system isn't working as well as it could.
A Labour government will invest in nurses, doctors, midwives and homecare assistants to create an NHS with Time to Care. On the Alex debacle a Labour government will review the current plans and will not support financially driven changes. Andrew repeated what has been said many times by Andy Burnham, we won't do what David Cameron did in opposition, promise to save all A&E departments from closure because some hospitals will have to change based on clinical need and being open with the public about the reasons for changes.
There is no capacity in the county or in Birmingham for the 2100 births that take place in Redditch. Last year nearly 14,000 people waited longer than four hours in A&E across Redditch and Worcestershire and so as it stands there isn't enough capacity in two A&Es, even without downgrading Redditch. I think the decision makers know their proposals are not supported by clinicians and that is why NHS England refuses to publish the West Midlands Clinical Senate report until after the election.
Today we learnt the Medical Incident Officer had been deployed at Worcester given people were waiting five hours with chest pain and that paramedics couldn't get patients seen by hospital staff. I fear for what five more years of this government will mean for the Alex and for the NHS. For more on this click here
Labour will bring together health and social care and ensure mental health and physical health are given the same priority. Not only does the NHS need investment it needs to become a National Health and Care Service that is fit for the twenty first century.