As the consultation on local hospital changes has recently closed it seems like an opportune moment to look more closely at how we have arrived at the current situation.
As many readers will be aware, the current proposals are to keep emergency services provision at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, but to downgrade services in Huddersfield.
While we may have initially been relieved that the current proposals maintain emergency care in Halifax, there will be huge extra pressures on our hospital as emergency patients from Kirklees are sent over to Halifax.
It will also mean much longer journeys for Calderdale patients wanting to access planned care which will be on the Huddersfield site. And there remains the possibility that if these proposals are rejected then we could see a new plan in which there is no guarantee that Halifax will keep its A&E unit.
Although many have focused their anger on the Calderdale and Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the committees of local doctors who are charged with making decisions on hospital provision, I believe the responsibility lies entirely with the Government.
A lack of funding from the Conservatives means that our NHS is going bust. Health experts at The King’s Fund say that “the 10 years up to 2020-21 are likely to see the largest sustained fall in NHS spending as a share of GDP in any period since 1951”.
We are falling behind others in Europe and are now 13th out of the original 15 EU members in terms of investment in healthcare, which amounts to £43bn less a year than the European average.
Across the country deficits in NHS trusts are at record highs. Until recent years Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust (which runs Halifax and Huddersfield hospitals) has avoided any serious financial problems, but for the year 2015/16 it is projected to run a deficit of £21million.
Additional funds from the government, which could help improve the Trust’s financial position, have not been forthcoming.
While under the last Labour government health spending reached the EU average of 8.5 per cent of GDP, this decade is set to be marked by the longest and deepest squeeze on NHS finances in a generation.
This comes at a time of increased demand and more expensive drugs and treatments, with some new drugs costing up to £90,000 per patient.
Less patients are able to leave hospital as social care is facing a crisis too, with Calderdale Council having seen over £100m cut from its overall budget since 2010.
There are now concerns that a quarter of all community pharmacies may also close, due to government plans to cut £170m from the community pharmacy budget.
Yet when I criticise the Conservatives in Parliament over their failures on health care in Calderdale I always get the same reply; “it’s the local doctors’ responsibility”.
This is simply passing the buck and deflecting attention from the real decision makers; the Government who determine levels of spending.
It means that Conservative MPs can berate local doctors for their proposals when those same MPs voted for the financial settlements which are causing these problems.
So although I am far from happy with the current plan put forward by the CCG, and nobody wants to see either town left without an A&E, it is vital that we see the wider context of this change.
The problems we face locally have been caused by the Conservative’s lack of investment in our NHS and I will continue to hold them to account on this and fight for increased investment in our health service.
I would like to invite all readers to attend a dementia friends session. This is a one hour information session to help raise awareness of the small everyday things that could make a difference to people living with dementia in the community.
We will be joined by a representative of the Alzheimer’s Society who have helped 1.4million people become dementia friends to help improve the lives of those living with dementia and their carers.
It will be at Halifax Central Library on Saturday, July 9 and all those who attend the session will become a dementia friend. Please contact Leo Verity on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to book a place.
I want to thank all the constituents who have been in touch after the tragic death of Jo Cox. In Westminster, I paid tribute to my friend and colleague. She was an outstanding member of parliament and she will be missed every day. My thoughts are with her family who have been pillars of strength and hope in the darkest of times.
This week I met with the Government’s Rail Minister to make the case for electrification of the Calder Valley rail line. Alongside representatives from Calderdale Council I argued that our rail line is a key transport link which has seen under investment for many years.
It serves 2.7 million people and extra investment could help take cars off our roads, as more people travel by train, and improve the speed and reliability of train journeys to Bradford, Leeds and Manchester.
While incremental changes are already underway, we want to see much more ambitious investment in our rail network in the next round of development work and will keep pushing the Government for it.