Merger is NHS price worth paying

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Last week’s news that the hospital trusts at Hinchingbrooke and Peterborough City Hospital are to merge from next year, seems to be about bowing to the inevitable, given their circumstances.

I’ve gone on record many times to praise the heroic efforts of the staff at PCH over the last few years: Faced with an ageing population, huge increases in population due to new housing, massive EU migration and the legacy of the disastrous 2007 Private Finance Initiative, they have performed extraordinarily well and as a local MP and a patient, I’ve had few complaints about clinical care over the years.

However, the status quo is not an option: Whilst Hinchingbrooke is not either clinically or financially viable at the present time, Peterborough’s structural year-to-year deficit of about £40million EVERY year, is untenable, whoever is in power, so something’s got to give.

My Parliamentary colleague Jonathan Djanogly has been a doughty champion for his local hospital in Huntingdon and I am for mine but we both want the same thing: First class hospital care for our constituents.

In retrospect, the campaign to keep Hinchingbrooke open eight years ago has made life very difficult for both hospitals but the bottom line is, both are safe from closure but need to collaborate and innovate to save clinical services and NHS jobs in the future and become more financially sustainable.

If that means sharing governance, medical expertise, clinical and support services, reducing duplication and involving the private sector where appropriate, then I think most people will understand that is a price worth paying, not least because as long as we safeguard the principle of public healthcare free at the point of need, most folk don’t care who provides for their health needs. I speak as someone who rebelled in the Commons against the Government last week to remove the NHS from the provision of the EU’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and so our Government must now shortly legislate to that effect.

Peterborough City Hospital faces the same challenges which affect the whole NHS - rising staffing costs, historic debts, poor management at regional and national level, demographic changes including adult social care of the elderly, poor diet and lack of exercise and uncontrolled immigration.

At least we now have a way forward and a path to a better local hospital - supporting and complementing improved public health and community primary care in our area.

It might be a bumpy ride in the next few years but really, what’s the alternative?