Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop blasted government cuts to local NHS services in a special Queens Speech health debate in the House of Commons late last night (9th June 2014).
“I used the debate as a way of showing just how bad the cuts are affecting my constituency. Over the space of a few weeks from this April my constituency has been overwhelmed by a perfect storm of cuts and closures pushed through by NHS England and the local Clinical Commissioning Group.
“People in the rural East Cleveland part of my constituency need NHS services and support seven days a week and that is why the last Labour Government proudly introduced NHS Direct and walk-in centres.
“They are looking – and have announced as a fait accompli – the total closure of the Skelton Health Centre and walk-in centre. This is part of a national coalition approach which has been targeting walk in clinics set up by the last Labour Government. If this happens Skelton will lose one of its GP practices, a nurse practitioner clinic and the attached pharmacy. The clinic serves people from the more socially deprived areas where there are grave health needs.
“But then we were told of another threat. The South Tees NHS CCG wants to end minor injuries provision at East Cleveland Hospital and Guisborough Hospital. Ending minor injury provision does not provide, in the words of the CCG consultation letter, ‘better care for the vulnerable and elderly’. Indeed the opposite, as it is elderly people who are vulnerable to falls and sprains that such minor injury clinics can deal with.
“But these cuts went beyond East Cleveland. We were then told that the GP surgery at Park End in Middlesbrough was under closure threat. Closure of this facility will, and I make no bones about it, lead to an increase in general ill-health in the area.
“The cumulative impact of these cuts and closures will increase the likelihood of people going to A&E at James Cook University Hospital, even when this is not appropriate. When that A&E has struggled to cope with demand over recent years, these cuts are a false economy.
“The mess of the unwanted NHS re-organisation by the Tory-led government deepens by the day. The Coalition has already wasted £3 billion on this exercise, leaving the NHS weakened and confused. Now locally we are beginning to see the consequences of this on our doorstep.
“In all this I have sought to meet government health ministers to see what alternatives could be considered. However, all attempts thus far to secure meetings have been rebuffed. I made it clear last night that there is still time for consultation and conversation in place of cuts and closures. The ball is now in the government’s court, and if these cuts are made, local people will know who to blame.”