Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Morecambe MP accuses Labour of "scare stories" over hospital cuts

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris has hit out at anti cuts campaigners who have raised concerns about the future of the Accident and Emergency Department at Royal Lancaster Infirmary, accusing them of scaremongering. He has also claimed the hospital is better off than it has ever under the Coalition government.

The Government's Health Minister also contributed to the debate, arguing "Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has had a very long and troubled history" and there was need for change.

Speaking on in a Westminster Hall debate about University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, Mr Morris explained the local press has been awash with allegations about the future of both maternity and accident and emergency services.

"I am concerned not about services changing but about the scare stories surrounding the matter," he told MPs (apparently contradicting some of his comments in letters to constituents where he expressed concern at changes just two weeks ago). "I have a letter from the chief executive of the trust that confirms that it will not shut the A and E at Royal Lancaster infirmary.

"The Minister also has this letter, but I will quote from it:
'The A and E at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary serves the population of Lancaster and surrounding areas and treats in the region of 50,000 people each year. Whilst it would be wrong of me to second guess the future, I personally find it hard to imagine Lancaster not having emergency services. Let me be clear, we do not have any plans to shut the Accident and Emergency department in Lancaster.
'We are deeply concerned that these continual rumours are undermining confidence and frightening the public. We will continue to work with the public, staff and stakeholders to better understand the review of services to help allay these concerns.'
"Jackie Daniel, the CEO of the trust, is saying there that not only does she have no plans to close the A and E, but she cannot even imagine a scenario in which anyone would close it, not least because it serves 50,000 people a year," Mr Morris continued.

"However, a concerted Labour campaign has been mounted by local party members who actually work in the NHS to make people believe that the A and E is likely to close. The campaign involves press briefings, an online petition, a Facebook group and even people walking round the centre of Morecambe with clipboards inviting people to join.

"I want the e-petition removed from Directgov and have written to the Cabinet Secretary to ask for him to intervene," Mr Morris stated. "We cannot have this dishonest campaign fought through the Directgov e-petition platform. If the A and E is not under threat, it must be concluded that Labour is frightening people for its own political advantage, which is morally wrong.

"It is perhaps time to admit the truth," he insists. "The trust is getting better under this Government.," he argued. "A new and better management was brought in by the previous Secretary of State for Health. A new minor injuries unit was opened in my constituency by the Minister only a few weeks ago. A new health centre in Heysham, costing £20 million, was opened last year. We have four new wards just opened. All of that was paid for by the 2.8% increase in funding for the NHS."

Mr Morris chose not to make MPs aware that local news reports actually focused on rumours that the closure of A&E may be a matter of public consultation, the result of the Trust's need to make considerable financial savings in the face of funding cuts by government. So while the Trust may not have plans to close A&E, it is alleged it is a proposal that it will be consulting on in the near future.

Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw also contributed to the debate, suggesting that perhaps the Trust's large area should be examined, a propsal welcomed by Barrow's Labour MP John Woodcock.

"I suggest that we need to look at the fundamental geography, which might mean challenging the boundaries of the Morecambe Bay trust, if we are ever to get some balance between the demands of Furness, Kendal and Lancaster," said Mr Ollerenshaw.

Responding to the debate, the Health Minister Doctor Daniel Poulter said there was a need to ensure that in the future decisions about the Trust are made in a holistic way and in the best interests of patient safety.

"Such decisions are not just for the trust to make alone but must be made in conjunction with the local commissioners and the ambulance service, if we want to ensure patient safety," he commented.

"We know that the Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has had a very long and troubled history," he added. "We also know that it serves a very important purpose in looking after people throughout north Lancashire and Cumbria. My hon. Friend Eric Ollerenshaw made clearly the good point that the configuration of the trust geographically is challenging. We, as a group, are going to meet together to talk through some of these issues and the troubled history of the trust, to ensure that we can do our best to work through these issues.

"There have been problems in the past with the trust and local patients have not been treated properly, and they and their families have suffered," Dr Poulter acknowledged. "There have been long-standing concerns over local care quality issues. That may mean that we have to redesign the way that services are delivered; that may be an inevitable consequence of improving patient care in the long run.

"Nevertheless, the driver of this process must be delivering high-quality local health care within the envelope of providing improved patient care with better outcomes and safer care, for patients. However, the only way that we will achieve that is if all the commissioners are working collaboratively with the trust in a more integrated approach to care. The failure to do that is where things have gone wrong in the past, and that is what needs to change in the future."

• A Facebook page has been set up to gather support for the RLI:

ePetition against the removal of A&E, Maternity and Intensive Care units at Royal Lancaster Infirmary (1330 signatories so far) Petition (450 more signatories needed) 

1 comment:

keith sowden said...

There is no doubt that Labour is using the usual rent-a-mob to create fear in the local population, but there is equally good reason to believe that the words of the new CEO are set in ston. Officials used exactly the same words in this area and in other areas only days before units were closed. Look at what has already happened to Barrow, Kendal and Morecambe. I just don't trust these officials.