Please find below my speech from the Queen's speech debate on Health and Social Care. My speech focussed on health services in Enfield.
Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Lab): It is a privilege to be back in this place after my short break; I did not seek it, but I hope I made good use of it. I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) on his maiden speech; it is a pleasure to follow him. It is an honour to be able to represent the constituents of Enfield North once again and to speak on their behalf.
One of the issues of the utmost importance to my constituents—and, indeed, to everybody in Enfield—is our national health service. Since 2010, Enfield has seen a shocking decline in acute care and primary care provision. Nothing symbolises the Conservatives’ attitude to the NHS more clearly than their decision to close our accident and emergency department and maternity unit at Chase Farm hospital—despite their promising to keep both open before the 2010 general election. People in Enfield feel betrayed—and no wonder.
Now, in the Gracious Speech, we see further pledges made to increase the health budget, to improve GP access and to ensure seven-day services for the NHS. Given the stark evidence of broken promises and cuts to services from the last five years, how can my constituents have any confidence in the Government’s plans for the NHS over the next five years?
Posing outside Chase Farm, in a visit to the hospital in 2007, the Prime Minister, then the Leader of the Opposition said,
“the idea that you cannot keep a maternity unit that’s got three thousand babies born in it a year is completely wrong. The idea we should be shutting Accident and Emergency and asking people to travel further is also wrong”. I agreed with him, but that was 2007. Safeguards were mentioned again in 2010, yet by 2013, the Conservative-led Government had ripped the heart out of Chase Farm and axed both services for good. That decision was certainly wrong.
Reports by the Care Quality Commission in 2014 found that both Barnet general hospital and North Middlesex University hospital, which have had to deal with the fallout from the closures at Chase Farm, had seen an increase in the number of patients they had to treat, a greater workload placed on staff and, in the case of the North Mid, added “pressures to care for patients”.
According to the NHS England A&E waiting time figures published in April, we have also seen a very sharp and real increase in the number of patients having to wait four or more hours for treatment at the A&E.
Our local health services would not have been under quite the same pressure if other promises to improve primary care, and therefore alleviate some of the strain on local A&E departments, had been fulfilled. The Barnet, Enfield and Haringey clinical strategy implemented in 2013 was supposed “to improve health services for local people in the three boroughs”, and at the time the strategy was approved, the Prime Minister stood at that Dispatch Box and said: “Enfield is also getting an increase in primary care funding. That is part of our plan of not cutting but expanding our NHS.”—[Official Report, 20 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 1226.]
Let me tell the House what this so-called improvement and expansion of services actually looks like. Between 2010 and the summer of 2014, we saw 12 GP practices in Enfield close, with only one new GP practice opened. In fact, there is not a single GP surgery in Enfield Chase, the ward in which Chase Farm hospital is located. Enfield is facing a serious shortage of doctors. The number of GPs in Enfield is expected to have to rise by 84 from its current levels of 167 over the next five years—an increase of some 50%, and that just to get adequate cover by 2020. According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, that leaves Enfield the 17th worst hit clinical commissioning group out of 212 across the country. I suggest that that is a record to be ashamed of.
Once again, promises made have not been kept, and it is very difficult to get a GP appointment in Enfield. That brings me back to Chase Farm hospital, which has now been taken over by the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. In December 2014, the Prime Minister said that the Government had set aside “£230 million” to redevelop the site. In reality, the Government are contributing only £82 million, and the rest of the costs must be provided through land sales and from the Royal Free itself. Despite many misleading statements by the governing party locally and nationally, the money is not going solely towards the construction of new buildings. A lot of it is to be used to maintain facilities and help to cover the hospital’s multi-million pound deficit. The redevelopment will cut Chase Farm hospital in size by almost a third, with no A&E, no maternity and no intensive care units either. It is certainly not going to be recognisable as the district general hospital it once was.
At the time of the announcement I mentioned, we were given a two-hour extension to the urgent care centre’s opening hours. That was in December, just five months before the election. A review of the urgent care hours is due this summer, but it is easy to imagine how cynical the two-hour expansion will look if those two hours are then to be cut. I believe that we need Chase Farm’s urgent care centre upgraded and its opening times permanently extended. Chase Farm has been gutted of frontline services. Acute care provision is under immense pressure. Enfield faces a shortfall in primary care provision, especially in relation to the number of GPs. Our mental health trust is anticipating an increased financial deficit of about £10 million this year, and funding for public health, which has been frozen, leaves Enfield 13.6% below the target figure funding recommended by the Department of Health. This is a health care crisis in Enfield, and it behoves the Secretary of State to meet me to discuss the situation in person so that he can give an absolute commitment to me and, more important, the people of Enfield, that these issues will be addressed. I am holding him and his Government to account. Will the current promises on the future of our NHS prove to be worth any more than the promises that we have already seen betrayed right across Enfield and its health care services?