Like many others around here, I rang up my Doctors surgery to get a routine appointment last week. The receptionist told me I was unable to pre-book an appointment for another 2 weeks. If I wanted to see a GP any sooner I would have to call at 8am every weekday morning in an attempt to get one of the appointments available that same day.
It took me a week to actually get an appointment as inevitably by the time I was connected I was met with the same message ‘Sorry all appointments have gone for today, you’ll need to call back in the morning’.
Although the government have recently made money available for a pilot scheme of extended GP opening hours, the Kirklees area was unfortunately not one of the chosen locations to receive any funding, so for the thousands of people trying to get a doctor’s appointment here the situation continues to get worse.
It is therefore little surprise that many people continue to attend A&E inappropriately, with conditions and ailments that should really be seen within a Primary Care setting. This perhaps goes some way to explaining why the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals trust is struggling to see and treat patients within the target 4 hour period. Official data provided by NHS England reveals that in the last 4 weeks a staggering 514 patients had to wait over 4 hours to be treated within A&E with a further 156 patients waiting between 4 and 12 hours on a trolley for a bed to become available.
I met the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) last week to tell them how concerned I was at the proposals to downgrade Dewsbury Hospital. Unfortunately they were unable to give me any reassurances around some of the patient safety issues I raised. I advised them that I was pleased that more outpatient services would be available at Dewsbury Hospital but this should not and must not be at the expense of fundamental, critical services such as a comprehensive A and E service and an obstetric led maternity unit. The CCG told me that they had already started to implement some of their Care Closer to Home programme, which will enable more patients to be treated out of the hospital environment. It is therefore alarming that with these measures being introduced A&E waiting times are continuing to rise.
Removing 200 beds at a time when patients have to wait on a trolley is absolute nonsense. The safety of thousands of people across Dewsbury, Mirfield and the whole district is at stake and I strongly believe that the proposal to downgrade Dewsbury Hospital should be halted immediately.
David Cameron promised that ‘people should be able to see their GP 24/7’ but with statistics showing that the proportion of patients getting a GP appointment within 48 hours has fallen from 80% to 40%, a quarter of patients unable to see their GP in a week and 25% of Walk-In centres closing since 2010 I was pleased to see Ed Milliband putting the health service at the centre of Labour’s campaign over the next year and vowing that a Labour Government will guarantee all patients a GP appointment within 48 hours, or on the same day if they need to be seen quickly. A Labour Government would achieve this by investing an extra £100 million into local GP surgeries – money we would save by repealing David Cameron’s market framework for the NHS and cutting down on the bureaucracy associated with it.
Studies reveal that facilitating easier access to GP appointments will reduce A&E admissions by as much as 159,000 a year saving the NHS £375 million.
With people living longer, complex medical needs and advances in medical technology we need a long term sustainable plan for our NHS and I am proud that Labour will restore the fundamental values of the NHS thus ending the current Government’s dogmatic obsession with privatisation, competition and free-marketeering.
In the meantime, the fight goes on to save Dewsbury Hospital and I will be fighting every step of the way to get the best deal for the residents of this district.