NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – 24th January 2016
Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust (based around Kingsmill Hospital) has been deemed ‘inadequate’ by the NHS inspectorate – which has triggered a Government ‘rescue plan’, including a requirement for their management to be taken over by another NHS Trust.
Derby NHS Trust and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust are both being considered for this ‘long term partnership’ role – which would essentially involve a merger, creating one of the biggest five Trusts in the country.
What might seem like a managerial issue far removed from frontline patient care is in fact potentially significant for all concerned across Nottinghamshire. On the one hand, our local hospitals need to attract the best specialists and so a stronger NHS Trust covering a wider range of specialisms could also develop better economies of scale. However, there could be concerns about the diluted focus of our Nottingham NHS team if they merge and have to spend time and effort simultaneously managing another Trust nearby.
So I’d be interested to know any views or thoughts you might have about this situation.
My principal concern is whether a merger would be to the benefit of Nottingham’s patients. While we cannot turn our back on neighbouring areas in need of assistance, I would want reassurances that the Government will more than compensate Nottingham for the expense involved.
Nottingham Hospitals NHS Trust has been under greater pressure and with higher drugs costs, an ageing population and more patients than ever, the accumulating funding gap to date is serious. If the Government can increase our local NHS budget, reduce this deficit and make sure that the PFI costs from Sherwood Forest Trust are taken care of separately, then there may be a strong enough financial incentive compensating Nottingham for the effort of a merger and making it worthwhile for all involved. But this would be a potentially massive reconfiguration, so I’ll be watching closely where the Government and health regulators go with this decision in the coming weeks.
- On Wednesday Nottingham City Council passed a proposal to increase the capacity of the Nottingham incinerator The Eastcroft energy-from-waste plant currently burns 170,000 tonnes of waste a year, but the plan almost doubles capacity to 310,000 tonnes. There are certainly benefits to incineration as a waste disposal technique: it reduces landfill and produces energy. In fact there is some suggestion that it could almost remove the need for landfill across Nottinghamshire. However, there are also serious concerns that have been voiced; the site will now produce more carbon dioxide and there are worries some have voiced about potential detriment to air quality in the area. I will continue to carefully monitor the environmental and economic impact of the expansion and while obviously this isn’t a decision involving me as a Member of Parliament, I do hope that the evidence continues to suggest that the benefits will significantly outweigh the costs and that the best possible environmental standards are pursued. Constituents in Sneinton do voice anxieties about air quality issues with me from time to time and these have to be properly addressed.
- On Friday I met with Barbara Cathcart, Chief Executive of Nottingham Hospitals Charity. The charity works with local hospitals to fundraise for new facilities, specialist equipment, local medical research and staff development. We discussed the charity’s current and future projects, including their Helipad Appeal, which aims to raise money to fund a new onsite helipad at Queen’s Medical Centre. An onsite helipad which will save vital minutes when air ambulance patients are brought to QMC, which is the Major Trauma Centre for the East Midlands. Barbara arranged for me to pop in to meet with Caroline one of the patients at the Cystic Fibrosis Unit which the charity helped fund with over £2million of support, so it was good to hear the enthusiasm of patients who have benefited from improved facilities because of this excellent fundraising effort (pictured with Barbara and Caroline below).
- Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust are a really important local organisation not just campaigning for wildlife protection but actively managing green spaces and of course the Attenborough site now the third most visited wildlife attraction in the East Midlands. I met with new Chair Ian Johnstone and their new Chief Executive Rob Fitzsimons (pictured) together with Head of Communications & Marketing Erin McDaid. We discussed the important work they are doing to protect wildlife sites in Nottingham and their aim to engage with the widest possible cross-section of the public on environmental and countryside protection issues. I’m particularly keen to see our local secondary schools work with the Wildlife Trust so that young people have more of an opportunity to learn and enjoy our local areas of wildlife protection.
- Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue and Nottinghamshire Police feature on a list of the top 100 LGBT-inclusive workplaces in the country, according to the charity Stonewall. I’m pleased to see that local government and public services in the city are leading the way in providing such supporting and inclusive environments for LGBT employees, and I hope to see many other Nottingham employers join the list in the future.
- Following stories about response time issues in recent months I have this week met with the East Midlands Ambulance Service to raise some of these local concerns directly with chief executive Sue Noyes and Trust Chair Pauline Tagg. They acknowledged that there are indeed some significant pressures facing the service, often part of the wider emergency service issues relating to access to hospital. I want to follow up on a number of questions including some of the outdated equipment and need for vehicle improvements, and to encourage the NHS commissioners to support plans for an expansion in frontline staff numbers which is much needed.
- As part of Nottingham City Council’s £250 million overhaul of the Broadmarsh area, there will be work on Wilford Road and Wilford Street from Friday 22 January. The city council are encouraging people to leave more time for journeys passing through this area. Click here for more information about the Broadmarsh regeneration.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- Last week I wrote that Student Maintenance Grants would only be scrutinised in a Delegated Legislation Committee. Fortunately, there was an opportunity to debate it properly in Parliament on Tuesday, as we brought an Opposition Day Debate on the subject. While Ministers claim that expanded loans are always the best way forward, I have concerns that this change could make poorer students think twice about going into higher education due to the considerable debts they will acquire in the process. I voted for the Labour motion, which called on the Government to abandon its policy on replacing maintenance grants with loans for lower income students, and I voted for a subsequent motion to annul the statutory instrument in which these changes are contained, but the Government opposed the motions and the plans have gone ahead.
- On Tuesday there was an Opposition Day Debate on the cost of public transport. The Government do not seem to be in touch with rising cost issues and while the Minister recently stated that passengers need to realise “they are paying fair fares for a comfortable commute”, prices have risen three times faster than wages. Since 2010 regulated rail fares have risen by 25% on average and some season tickets have risen by up to 38%, costing some passengers thousands of pounds more each year. Bus fares have also risen on average by 26%. Bus services are used by every section of society and bus passengers account for two thirds of public transport journeys. Yet 2,400 local authority supported bus routes have been cut or downgraded since 2010. We need a growing bus industry that can provide new routes to areas that are not currently served and provide people with as many options as possible for travel. I believe that the Government now needs to bring forward a Buses Bill to enable better regulation of local bus networks. Passengers were always told that higher rail fares were necessary to pay for improvements, but under this Government, that link has been broken. Instead we have delays to infrastructure projects, including the electrification of keys lines, as the rail investment programme is delayed by years and billions of pounds over budget.
- On Wednesday the Government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill returned to the House of Commons for its Report Stage and Third Reading. I support this Bill which contains measures to restrict the supply of new psychoactive substances (NPS), which pose a serious risk to public health. Indeed, I was elected on a manifesto which contained a commitment to banning the sale and distribution of dangerous psychoactive substances. However, unfortunately, the Government’s Bill falls short in some respects on drug education and awareness. Drugs education in schools is currently patchy and can be of poor quality. I believe drugs education belongs in the PSHE part of the curriculum, rather than solely in the science classroom, in order to be effective. I therefore supported a shadow frontbench amendment which would have made PSHE, including drugs and psychoactive substances education, a foundation subject in the National Curriculum.
- On Thursday the Home Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons following the publication of the report of the statutory inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. The inquiry concluded that Mr Litvinenko, a British citizen, was “deliberately poisoned” in 2006, with the strong possibility that this was under the direction of the Russian domestic security service. The Home Secretary described the murder of Mr Litvinenko as a “blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law”. Those responsible for Mr Litvinenko’s death have not been brought to justice, and the Government announced that Interpol notices and European arrest warrants have now been issued. I welcome the Government’s indication that there will be new diplomatic pressure, but I do not believe that this goes anywhere near far enough. A consideration for justice should lead the Government’s principal response to this event. I hope that the Home Secretary will return to the House of Commons to provide details of the final package of steps that the Government will take. The Litvinenko family deserve nothing less.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
There are some fundamental industries that any modern country requires if it is to be able to stand on its own feet and safeguard it independence and long term sustainability. Steel production is a core strategic industry for our country and I worry that ignoring this disappearing capacity could even be a national security risk in the longer run, a point I put directly to Chancellor George Osborne at Treasury Questions on Tuesday (watch by clicking the picture below):
When the Government made a statement on the steel sector on Monday in response to the announcement that Tata Steel plans to make over 1,000 redundancies across its UK strip business as part of its continuing restructuring plans, we heard that the proposals involve 750 job losses at Port Talbot, 200 redundancies in support functions at Llanwern, and 100 redundancies at steel mills in Trostre, Corby and Hartlepool. This is devastating news for all the workers, their families and the close-knit communities affected. This latest blow comes on top of job losses at Tata’s Newport plant last year, along with thousands of job losses across the sector in the UK, including the complete closure at Redcar. Steel company Sheffield Forgemasters also announced this week that it will cut up to 100 jobs. The threats facing the industry show no sign of abating, and yet the Government have too complacent.
I’d be interested to know your view about the balance to be struck between recognising the realities of global market forces, and (as I believe) ensuring that government intervenes sufficiently to protect the basic building blocks we will always require for national economic development, be it in energy self-sufficiency, manufacturing or other core essentials.
In the case of steel, Ministers have not been tough enough in dealing with the volume of cheap Chinese steel or active enough with the European Union. They have made no concessions on the business rate system, which actively penalises those who invest in expensive infrastructure to improve productivity, and there is no sign that their technical change to procurement rules is making any difference in the award of Government contracts to help our domestic industry. Only by taking immediate and decisive action, not least by fully engaging at an EU level, can the Government make sure our steel industry survives so that it can benefit from planned infrastructure spending.