Constituency Matters: Speaking up for the NHS

Posted on September 28, 2009. Filed under: News stories, Polyclinics |

Ealing Gazette | By Andy Slaughter, MP for Ealing Acton & Shepherds Bush | 28 September 2009

I recently attended the annual meeting of the Health Service in Hammersmith & Fulham. Yet another change of name means we are now supposed to call this the local NHS, just as we have got used to calling it the PCT.

But whatever it is called it is big business – spending over £276 million in the borough this year. The Chair, Jeff Zitron, said this was one of the best years so far for the NHS. The new Polyclinic at Charing Cross has just opened following that at Hammersmith Hospital earlier in the summer and the borough’s third at White City is finally underway following two years of refusal by the council to give it planning permission.

Even here there is good news with the new GP and dental practices being housed on the Canberra school site while the new health centre is built – with the added bonus that the school will get £250,000 in rent.

Polyclinics provide new GP services and a lot more in the way of community and hospital services either to registered or walk in patients. They will offer seven day extended hours services (24 hour at Charing Cross) and thus relieve the pressure on A&E.

Charing Cross also gets one of the eight new London stroke centres and there has been a major expansion of maternity and community nursing services. 80% of GP services across the borough are now opening extended hours.

And yet very little of this good news – the biggest expansion of health care since the NHS was founded – finds its way to us. Partly this is because the NHS is still very bad at telling the public what it has to offer, but it is also a deliberate political ploy to play down the good news here, as it is with investment in schools and other public services

The Tories opposed Polyclinics and extended GP opening, indeed the whole investment programme in the NHS, and are reluctant to credit their success now. More worrying, in Hammersmith the council has inserted its chief executive as chief executive of the NHS, putting the health at local level under political influence for the first time. There is no incentive for the NHS to sing its own praises when its political masters are telling it to be quiet.

Moreover the Tories in Hammersmith & Fulham – through the taxpayer-funded HFNews – are running an alternative and wholly false storyline that services are closing – including Charing Cross Hospital.

While this laughable rumour is contradicted by every new building, ward, and piece of high tech equipment that opens on the site, telling the truth – that there has never been more investment or higher standards of care in the NHS – would spoil the tale.

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