On Thursday I visited the Great Western Hospital and spent nearly two hours there, meeting managers, staff and patients and seeing round the newly-refurbished Jupiter ward. As a local resident, I use the hospital and know many of the staff, and I’m proud to be their MP. It comes at a time when the NHS is coming under the political spotlight, especially in light of the pressure on Accident & Emergency Services. I am hugely impressed by the work of the A & E department in Swindon and the professionals who work incredibly hard there.
Unlike other hospitals, GWH has not had to declare a major incident to help cope with the winter demand. The major challenge is not with the volume of admissions, but at the other end of the process. The issue we must address is how to get patients out of hospital when the time is right by ensuring that a suitable package of onward care and support is available, either at home or in another NHS facility. To make that happen, the system of assessments needs to be streamlined. That’s why on Friday I also made a point of meeting Seqol, the agency which has responsibility for care assessments in Swindon. They too are working very hard and have a representative in the hospital to work closely with medical staff and ensure discharges can be properly organised. Among the issues they’re dealing with is so-called ‘out of town’ patients. People from outside Swindon are waiting to be discharged back in to their communities, but those other local authorities can often have challenges carrying out a timely assessment.
It is worth reflecting that the government has made a substantial extra investment in the NHS, with £12.7 billion going in since 2010. Just last month in the autumn statement, the Chancellor announced an extra £2 billion, and our local NHS is getting an above-inflation budget increase. However this is not a time for political point-scoring. The NHS is too important for that. Our priority should be looking in detail at the challenges and coming up with local solutions that work for our community. That extends to issues like access to GPs, which has historically been a problem in some parts of Swindon. The new walk-in centres are helping with that provision, and I want to work with doctors and managers to find a long-term solution that works for Swindon.
I’m exceptionally proud to be the MP for our local hospital, and exceptionally proud of the service it provides. It’s a service I care about very much, and want to make sure it’s working as best it can for my family, friends and all fellow South Swindon residents.
(This article was originally posted in the Swindon Advertiser on 14th January 2015)