Rt Hon Sir Mike Penning MP – Update from Parliament August 2018

I have been trying to hold a debate in Parliament on accountability in the NHS for a long time and at last, in July, I was lucky to secure one.

Every week I receive numerous letters calling on me to build a new hospital. I understand that and I agree. I would love to be able to build a new hospital. It is blatantly obvious to me that the future of hospital services in our area would be a new purpose-built hospital that is centrally located to serve Hemel, St Albans and Watford.

But, these decisions do not rest with politicians, instead they rest with the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust – one of several NHS Trusts that provides healthcare services in our area.

And this is the rub. NHS management are not accountable to Ministers, or local MPs or any locally elected body. They are totally unaccountable to the people they serve.

There are numerous examples locally where people rightly feel let down by them.

These Trusts take us for fools and we have absolutely no way to hold them to account.

They consult with us. But these consultations are a complete sham. The decisions are made before the consultation takes place. They make the decision to close, put it in their budgetary regime and then consult. They then come out and say, “We’ve consulted local people” – even though they ignore the result.

In the case of the overnight closure of the Urgent Care Centre (which was already a sop given to us in compensation for losing our A&E), they didn’t even bother to consult – only consulting “in retrospect” after local campaigners kicked up a fuss. (Of course, they ignored the result and closed it overnight anyway).

We’ve had Chief Executives appointed on salaries more than twice that of the Prime Minster, who have failed and then moved on to new highly paid positions elsewhere in the NHS. Sometimes the job has not even been advertised, the Chief Executive just “appointed”. It’s a real “jobs for the boys” culture. I thought we had moved on from this years ago.

The Department for Health seems to be at a loss on how to deal with it. I was sorely disappointed in the response to the issues I raised. The Minister just spouted standard civil service answers in the most part.

I was left fuming when he attempted to suggest we didn’t need a new hospital locally because there was already a new hospital being built in our local STP. The STP is a typical example of the NHS bureaucracy tying itself up in knots – the Hertfordshire and West Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, or STP (derogatorily known as Sticky Toffee Puddings) is of no relevance to any normal person living in Hemel Hempstead. The fact that a new hospital is being built in Harlow – which is what the Minister talked about – is of no help to us in Hemel. Utter madness. It is nothing short of an insult.

Local people – not just here, but all over the country – must have their voices heard.

This campaign is not over yet.

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