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Sandy Martin - My take on Hospital merger plan

Since 2010, the Government has seriously underfunded the NHS, writes Sandy Martin MP.  Even within the context of a nationally underfunded NHS, Ipswich Hospital got a particularly bad financial settlement in the year just coming to an end. The situation is now critical.

Ipswich Hospital is good, but it needs serious improvements.  Doctors, nurses and other medical staff need to be able to communicate better, especially between departments.  Patients must not get the wrong treatment – or no treatment at all – because the relevant person was not told their condition.  Labour believes that the shortage of trained staff potentially poses a real danger to patients.  We want to see the Government fund Ipswich Hospital properly so that it can provide the staff it needs.  And the Government needs to make sure the staff are paid properly, so that the exodus of highly trained staff stops.

Labour wants investment for A&E so that patients are not left waiting in ambulances. Ipswich Hospital has a first-rate A&E but there are not enough nurses and doctors available to give less critical patients the treatment they need as swiftly as possible.  And we need a good alternative for people with minor injuries, so they don’t need to go to A&E in the first place – like Riverside that was closed by the Government.  And the 111 phone service must stop calling an ambulance for people when they don’t need one. A&E and ambulances are for emergency treatment – we don’t want any more people lying on the ground for hours with a broken leg because no ambulances are available.

A Labour Government would reverse the partial privatisation of the NHS. Radiologists, physio-therapists, nurses, consultants, cleaners and receptionists are all vital for the safe and effective running of the hospital, and should be directly employed by the NHS so that they are treated fairly and there isn’t some hedge fund or investment bank making money out of the NHS at our expense. 

Patients must get the best care in hospital, free at the point of use, whether it’s a Foundation Trust or not.  We want that care to be provided at Ipswich Hospital wherever possible. Most illnesses and conditions can be properly treated at Ipswich Hospital, and that must continue.  But there will always be some situations where the best care will only be available in another hospital eg Addenbrookes or Papworth.  In some cases, under the new joint arrangements, that will also include Colchester Hospital.

The public meeting on the hospital merger plans yesterday made several things clear. Ipswich Hospital staff are being TUPEd to the new joint hospital foundation trust, because the new trust is a different legal entity.  It does not mean that there has been a “takeover” of Ipswich Hospital by Colchester Hospital. The reason the staff at Colchester do NOT need to be TUPEd is because Colchester was already a Foundation Trust and Ipswich wasn’t.

Ipswich Hospital will keep several procedures - including cardiac and radiotherapy care -  because the number of patients using the joint trust will make it viable to retain them.  These procedures would have gone to Norfolk or Addenbrookes otherwise.

Some Vascular procedures will move to Colchester from Ipswich.  Spinal procedures will move to Ipswich from Colchester.  Both would have been lost from both hospitals if they had not merged.

Because of the merger, the Government is giving the Joint Foundation Trust a £69 million capital grant to help them deliver joint services more effectively. There has been no transfer of money or resources from Ipswich to Colchester.

I am determined that Ipswich Hospital will continue to improve. I will be encouraging strong representatives from Ipswich to get elected to the Council of Governors of the new Trust to make sure Ipswich has a genuine say over how the new trust operates. Suffolk people don’t want any unnecessary journeys to Colchester – they must be for better clinical results, not just administrative convenience.  That doesn’t mean I think the merger is wrong – I don’t, I just want to make sure it works for Ipswich.  

Ipswich residents must get the best possible care for whichever problem they have, whether that is at Ipswich Hospital, Colchester Hospital, Addenbrookes, Great Ormond Street, or wherever. 

In order to achieve that we need to see a serious increase in the funds available for running our NHS. 

It is no good Theresa May announcing yet another “review” to try to deal with the crisis – we need action not words. 

I will continue to campaign alongside my Labour colleagues for a better NHS for us all. 

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