Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (18th June 2014) strongly criticised the Department of Health after a Tory Health Minister flatly refused to meet him on NHS closures in Brotton, Skelton, Guisborough and Park End.
“In my constituency, the minor injuries unit at Guisborough hospital, the minor injuries unit at East Cleveland hospital in Brotton, a walk-in centre and medical centre in Skelton, and a medical centre in Park End—all primary or intermediary level facilities—are planned to be closed, putting further pressure on the excellent but already under pressure A&E unit at James Cook University hospital.
“I have now asked three times for a meeting with Ministers. The first time, I was told that I have already had too many discussions with them and that I cannot bring it up any further. I then raised the issue in a detailed speech in the Commons, where I once again requested a meeting, with Ministers ignoring the request in their response. I then asked again through a written Parliamentary question, only to be refused again.
“I am afraid that is not good enough. 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&E departments. It is just not good enough.
“I have not been idle on these issues, but all my efforts have been stymied by a combination of bureaucratic blocking and indifference. I managed to organise a local meeting with NHS authorities that was unhelpful to say the least. Instead of a commitment to examine the clinical arguments and potential additional pressure these services changes will place on the Accidents and Emergencies Unit at James Cook university hospital, the NHS managers at the meeting retreated behind the protection of contractual timetabling, based on funding cuts issued by the Department of Health.
“What is happening locally is not unique. All across the country we have seen top-down closure changes driven through, and the local impact of this will mean more ill health in the community. Rather than refusing to engage in discussions about service changes, as they are doing in Park End and East Cleveland, Ministers should accept responsibility for them.
“Four 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.”