As the MP for Leicester East, I wholeheartedly oppose the downgrading of Leicester General. I am concerned that it will have a detrimental impact for the residents of Leicester East and for people living across our city.
In November 2019, University Hospitals of Leicester (UHL) NHS Trust received £450million funding from the government to reorganise its acute hospital services. This money will be used to close the General Hospital as an acute hospital and consolidate acute services onto two sites – Leicester Royal Infirmary and Leicester Glenfield Hospital. A large amount of land at the General Hospital site will then be sold for other use.
Virtually no detail about these plans has been put into the public domain. The lack of transparency from the government has been alarming. The NHS has a statutory duty to consult on any closure, and as your MP I will be pushing to ensure that this consultation is meaningful.
There are valid concerns that the number of beds proposed for the new-look General are entirely inadequate, and that these projections are based on the unrealistic hope that community care will be able to make up for this shortfall. Given the crisis we face in social care, this is highly unlikely, and will place vulnerable people in Leicester East at further risk.
Government policy over the last decade has been to keep cutting the number of beds and to downsize hospital capacity so that it barely caters for our population. This was proven to be a dangerous mistake even before the current Coronavirus outbreak. The concept of a ‘winter crisis’ has been normalised by this government, but this was not a regular occurrence under previous administrations. The Conservatives have stretched the NHS to breaking point, meaning it is running over capacity even without any exogenous crises. By consistently underfunding our NHS, they have not only placed valuable NHS staff under tremendous pressure but have also left the entire population vulnerable to the impact of unprecedented public health crises.
We are now seeing the consequences of underfunding hospitals such as Leicester general. What the coronavirus crisis clearly shows is that it is not enough to plan just for minimum need. The NHS also needs to have some leeway – with funding and planning which can enable it to deal with national emergencies. The current shortage in ventilators and personal protective equipment for NHS staff is a key example of this.
I am immensely grateful to all our NHS staff and social care workers in Leicester East who are working tirelessly to help deal with the crisis. They rightly should be applauded, but they deserve much more support than they are currently getting from the government.
I believe that we need a collective approach to this crisis, the biggest of our lifetime, and one which sees a step change in how our public services are valued and funded after a decade of savage cuts. We need to fight for real funding for the NHS with decent pay and conditions for its staff. The fragmentation of our NHS has left all of us more vulnerable. This current crisis demonstrates the need for a properly funded health service that can withstand unexpected crises. As your MP, I will continue to fight on your behalf to ensure the government are prioritising our public health and safety