Tom Blenkinsop expresses ‘anger’ after local NHS overlooked for new GP surgery funding

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, expressed his anger at the news that NHS England has created a fund to prevent the closure of GP surgeries in areas of high deprivation – just weeks after the closure of a GP surgery in Skelton and the announcement of a closure of another surgery in Middlesbrough’s Park End.

The news came after as many as 100 GP surgeries around the country have been threatened with closure in recent months after the Government announced changes to the way GPs are to be funded.

In an apparent admission that the plans would disproportionately affect areas with high levels of deprivation, NHS authorities have offered financial support to surgeries whose patient populations have an index of multiple deprivation score above 35 – a Government measure of poverty rates.

Tom said:
“I am seething with anger at this announcement. Proposals like this do not come out of the blue and I have a deep suspicion that the axe was taken to the Skelton and Park End surgeries at a time when NHS bosses knew such a fund was being set up. Park End, and large parts of Skelton suffer from deprivation, and the use of this fund could have kept both alive and serving their communities and patients.

“I will be asking question of Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, in the Commons when it returns after the summer recess. This is both bad planning and bad practice and I will be demanding that NHS England comes clean about why this fund was not considered suitable for Skelton and Park End. I will also be demanding that the use of this fund is looked at in the consultation work on the future the latest threatened surgery in my constituency, Hemlington surgery.”

Short-listed bidders for Northern Rail are “total wipe-out for any UK management of local railway services”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, made these comments today (19th August 2014) after the names of the short-listed bidders for the Northern Rail franchises were announced by the Department for Transport.

Tom said:
“It is a huge blow for local services that the selected bidders are almost 100% foreign owned. We have Arriva which is German owned; Govia where the largest shareholder is French; and Abelio based in the Netherlands.

“This means that every pound handed over to the conductor on the train from Saltburn to Middlesbrough and Darlington will be going to boost the profits of companies not domiciled in the UK.

“It’s not right that the future of our rail network in the North is being decided by Coalition Ministers and civil servants in London. I urge the Government to review this decision with the aim that the North East – where the railway world was born – gets an operating system fit for purpose and kick-starts a transformation in our local rail services, not more of the same.”

Tom expresses concern at Hemlington NHS proposals

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop. Has today (11th August 2014) expressed his concerns at a consultation looking into whether there is sufficient capacity in the area if Hemlington Medical Centre was to close.

Commenting on the consultation Tom said:
“Across my entire constituency different NHS services are being put at risk due to the destructive reorganisation imposed by the Tory-led Government – in Skelton we have lost the GP Practice and walk-in centre; in Park End we’ve lost the medical centre, and minor-injury services in Guisborough and Brotton look precarious. These proposals for Hemlington Medical Centre would be devastating and would inevitably increase pressure on other local NHS services, such as already overstretched A&E services.

“Whilst I understand that, currently, this only forms part of a consultation, it is strikingly similar to what happened in Skelton and Park End. I vehemently oppose the proposal to close Hemlington Medical Centre and I will be responding to the consultation saying as much. I would urge local residents who rely on the service to do the same.

“Our NHS is rapidly being eroded away and only a Labour government will fight for it.”

Coalition ‘Youth Contract’ has been a “complete failure”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today (25th July 2014) labelled the Coalition’s ‘Youth Contract’ a “complete failure” following the decision to abandon the ill-fated policy.

Tom said:
“Over 4 year since he entered Downing Street, David Cameron’s Government still hasn’t got a clue how to get our young people into work. Just two years after the launch of their flagship Youth Contract, the £1 billion programme is being abandoned by ministers.

“The Youth Contract has been a complete failure from start to finish. Ministers promised it would get every unemployed young person working or learning, but only a tiny fraction of Youth Contract employer wage incentives were ever used to get young people into work. On Teesside almost 5,000 young people are still unemployed.

“The Youth Contract has proved to be a waste; we urgently need a new plan to get young people back to work. The Government should introduce Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get young jobseekers off benefits and into work.”

Tom Blenkinsop “furious” after local NHS make decision to close the Park End GP Clinic

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (10th July 2014) said he was “furious” at the “short sighted decision by local managers of NHS England to close the Park End GP surgery and clinic in South Middlesbrough.

Tom said:

“In my constituency, the closure follows other closure decisions and proposals affecting surgeries in Skelton and minor injuries units at Guisborough and East Cleveland hospitals. It is all part of a slash and burn pattern which puts balance sheets and so-called savings ahead of patient wishes and health.”

“Despite the consultation exercise seeking views on the Park End Clinic showing staggering levels of local support – with 95% of respondents saying they were “satisfied or completely satisfied” with the service provided by the clinic, that they were totally happy with the quality of treatment from GP’s and nurses and with 73% disagreeing totally with any closure proposal, citing the need or a local centre for an area with a higher than average number of elderly people, local NHS bureaucrats have merely rubber stamped their original proposal, something that leads me to conclude that the consultation was a sham exercise, with only one outcome envisaged.”

“I am afraid that is unacceptable to me and local Park End residents. Up and down the country we are seeing services closed without adequate consultation. NHS walk-in centres continue to be closed, piling more pressure on A and E departments. It is just not good enough.”

“Just four short years ago the Government inherited a self-confident and successful NHS, with the lowest ever waiting times and the highest ever public satisfaction. Since then it has been demoralised and reduced to an uncertain organisation increasingly fearful of the future – something not lost on my constituents.”

“I will continue to campaign against the closure of HNS services in my constituency, my petition to save the essential services now has thousands of signatures and is growing every week. You can add your name to it by visiting my website, www.tomblenkinsop.com.”

Tom expresses disappointment as Arriva announces new East Cleveland timetables

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (8th July 2014) expressed disappointment at what he called a “curate’s egg” of a new set of timetable and minor route changes for services in East Cleveland.

Tom said:
“Whilst there are some signs that the company have responded positively to complaints from local bus users channelled through me, there are still big areas where we could have had improvements to the major changes seen at the beginning of the year, but where Arriva have taken no action.”

“Above all, and despite a packed and angry public meeting in Guisborough at which they were present, they have failed to bring back services to the Hunters Hill area of Guisborough, a large residential estate now bereft of bus services to the town centre and Middlesbrough. This, as with the loss of over half of the old 81 service to  Farndale Drive, has seriously inconvenienced many residents. This could have been righted in this new set of timetables, but again Arriva have not listened.

“There are some improvements, most notably a promise of new buses; a return of the 5a route to New Skelton; the resumption of direct through early morning buses from East Cleveland to Middlesbrough on the X3 route and a new peak hour X5 service of two buses non-stop from Loftus, Brotton and Skelton to central Middlesbrough. But these improvements, welcome as they are, have been cancelled out by the lack of any action to bring back buses to Hunters Hill. This is something I will continue to press for.”

‘Monitor investigation highlights serious trouble local NHS is in’

Commenting on the outcome of an investigation by Monitor into South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland today (2nd July 2014) Tom Blenkinsop said:

“This investigation by Monitor into serious failings at South Tees only serves to highlight the very real pressure and trouble our NHS faces from the Coalition cash axe.  These failings need to be fixed as quickly as possible and I hope the methods identified by Monitor will be able to do this.

“My biggest concern is the very precarious state the finances of the local trust are in. David Cameron promised to protect the NHS but, quite evidently, he is failing and the buck stops with him. This week saw Skelton Medical Centre Close its doors, Park End Clinic is in serious danger of being lost, and I dread to think what will be next on the chopping board. I can easily foresee a round of local NHS staff cuts in an attempt to compensate for the financial shortcomings.

“I will work with Monitor – who I met with earlier today to discuss the findings of their investigation -  alongside South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and I will continue to put pressure on the Government to ensure that the issues identified are resolved and that residents in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland have an NHS that they can rely on.

“It’s just a real pity that Tory Health minister still refuse to meet me about this as well as NHS service closures in Park End, Guisborough, Brotton and Skelton, which just adds insult to the injury this Government had inflicted upon our NHS.

“I will be raising Jeremy Hunt’s refusal to meet with me, yet again, in my petition to parliament this evening.”

Miliband power devolution ‘a tonic for Teesside’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Ton Blenkinsop today (1st July 2014) welcomed proposals made by Labour’s leader Ed Miliband, promising a devolution of spending powers from Whitehall to England’s regions and councils in order to reduce the inequalities between the north and London and the South East, and to boost local economic growth.

Ed Miliband pledged that under a Labour government councils would be encouraged to join forces to create regional “economic powerhouses” to attract more jobs and boost growth. They would be allowed to keep any extra business rates income generated by growth to invest locally. The plan would be “revenue neutral” – it would not cost taxpayers anything – but would hand more control over how money raised locally is spent in that area.

In addition he called for releasing up to £30bn in government funding for regional housing, transport and employment schemes, creating a new national funding framework for innovation policy and setting a target of 25% of all government contracts being awarded to small firms.

Tom said:
“If put in place this could the tonic Teesside needs to develop jobs and industry for future generations. Teesside has massive economic strengths which are simply being ignored by this Coalition government.  Our core industries of steel, chemicals and engineering are not only vital to the UK as a whole but, with proper support, are capable of fast growth.

“The infrastructure of Teesside consists of crucial and unique features vital for many of the industries that could be developed –  a direct supply of North sea gas feedstock; major effluent-treatment facilities;  a well-developed logistic capacity, including a deep-water port whose operators have experience of handling many different products; the best water supply in the United Kingdom;  a good supply of new sites for the industry that are already hooked into services and capable of producing cost and time savings for incoming producers; and above all, a mature support network of suppliers, process engineers, and an adaptable, skilled workforce.

“With help, these vital factors can help Teesside become an industrial powerhouse for the future. A powerhouse that can create new local jobs in both big and small Teesside businesses and new locally based growth – a concept that is in stark contrast to the penny-pinching, Whitehall dominated approach that has been imposed on Teesside by today’s feeble coalition.”

‘Latest A&E crisis proves need for local health services’

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (30th June 2014) claimed that the latest crisis in Accident and Emergencies across the country is proof that access to local health services is vital for the future of our NHS.

His comments came following research by Imperial College London that showed ‘as many as 5.77 million visits to A&E departments in England are a result of patients not being able to see their GP’.

Tom said:
“Under David Cameron, it has got harder and harder to get a GP appointment and that is forcing record numbers through the doors of A&E.

“When Cameron came to power, the vast majority of people could see a GP within 48 hours. Within days of taking office, he scrapped Labour’s guarantee of an appointment within 48 hours. Today, one in four can’t get an appointment in the same week. It is a mess of his making and is simply not good enough.

“This research also comes on a day when we see local NHS services in East Cleveland – namely Skelton Medical Centre – being lost due to Government cuts. In a couple of months’ time it is highly likely that Park End will lose its clinic. I dread to think what burden this will transfer onto what has been a severely under pressure A&E service at James Cook.

“Labour will stop the rot and invest £100 million, saved by scrapping Cameron’s market rules, to help patients get a GP appointment when they need one – either within 48 hours or a same-day consultation with a doctor or nurse.

“People can see how quickly the NHS is now heading downhill under this Government. GP services are in freefall and A&E departments are in the middle of their worst year in at least a decade. It is why people do not trust David Cameron with the NHS.”

‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ argues Tom Blenkinsop over Chancellor’s comments about future investment in the North

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland commenting on Tory Chancellor George Osborne’s speech regarding investment in the North has claimed that ‘nobody will believe the Tories can deliver the jobs, growth and investment we need for the North of England’.

Tom said:
“You will be hard pressed to find many people in the North of England, and in particular in the North East, anybody who would give the Chancellor’s comments more than a short shrift. We’re always the area at the sharp end of disastrous Tory policies be that disproportionate cuts to funding for local councils, the way above-average long-term unemployment or serious underinvestment in local transport infrastructure.

“The North-South divide has certainly widened again under this Tory-led government. The Tories scrapped Labour’s successful regional development agencies, failed to implement Lord Heseltine’s growth report and are planning to cut infrastructure investment next year

“Ever since I entered Parliament I have been campaigning for the electrification of the railway lines across Teesside – something I believe would be a huge boost to the local economy that would allow better links to our neighbouring cities.

“And with these plans – and I use that term loosely – there is little detail about how they would be funded, there is no timescale and all he really wanted was, and I quote, “to start a conversation”. This simply isn’t good enough.

“Nobody will believe the Tories can deliver the jobs, growth and investment we need for the North of England. If the Chancellor is serious about tackling the uneven economy that leaves the North at a disadvantage then I would certainly welcome the investment. However, I will believe it when I see it.”