Would you prefer to be reading this article at home today, or in a hospital bed?
This sounds like an easy question, but lots of people in our city, especially in my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent South, end up having to go to A&E or to call an ambulance unnecessarily. Far too many people are not currently able to access the services they need in our local community to improve their health.
The north of the city has Haywood Hospital, and its walk-in centre, but there is no such facility anywhere near Longton, Fenton or Meir, and this shows in who is turning up at A&E. In the first ten months of this year, 8,836 people from Stoke-on-Trent South turned up at the A&E department at the Royal Stoke University Hospital. Many of these had conditions and problems which could have been sorted out in the community.
Further to this, we know that there are people in hospital who are waiting to leave but cannot because there is no appropriate care in the community. Since the local healthcare trusts started recently discharging people home from hospital, with an appropriate care package, rather than carrying out rehabilitation in hospital, the amount of people having to return to A&E in a short space of time has almost halved.
The lack of community healthcare facilities in the south of the city presents us with a fantastic opportunity to design exactly the sort of facilities we want in the heart of our community. There are plans for a new health centre, with a GPs’ surgery, in the middle of Longton. I am pushing hard and telling everyone in the local NHS who will listen, that this needs to have as many services as possible based locally in our community.
This should be a one-stop-shop, where you can see a GP or a nurse, have a blood sample taken if you need to, or perhaps see a physiotherapist. My constituents currently have to drive miles or take the gamble of using our local bus service, to access services all over the area; from Bentilee, to Penkhull, to Newcastle-under-Lyme. This is much too far for local people to be expected to travel to access healthcare services which should be deserve close to home. There are more than 90,000 people in Stoke-on-Trent South, and it is not acceptable that these services are just not available here.
I will continue to fight to ensure that we get the services we deserve. I have been pleased to start a survey recently going to a number of people living in and around the Longton area. I have been overwhelmed by the huge number of response already and local people virtually 100% back this new facility in Longton.
There has been further good news on our community healthcare services in this past week. The Department of Health and Social Care announced last week that it will invest in a new Urgent Care Centre, Detoxification Suites and Crisis Cafes for North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare, based at Harplands Hospital. This will provide key early support for those with mental health issues in the community, preventing problems becoming worse to the point where people need in-patient care. It will also support more effectively people who need support with substance misuse.
Alongside this it has also been great to see investment of £2.2 million in technology to cut medical errors at the University Hospitals of the North Midlands NHS Trust. This will help the hospitals to replace paper records with electronic ones, reducing prescribing errors by up to 50% and saving lives.
The Government is putting an extra £394 million a week into the National Health Service, and I am determined to bring as much of this as possible to Stoke-on-Trent. Ensuring we get the funding we need to improve our health services locally.
This winter will again be the most challenging time of the year for our health and social care system and it is good to see the Government has recognised this by committing an additional £1.3 million in winter pressures social care funding to Stoke-on-Trent City Council. I am planning to visit A&E over the Christmas period to see first-hand the challenges being faced at the busiest time of the year and listen to doctors and nurses about the fantastic work they do.
So finally, I just want to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a healthy, prosperous 2019.
This article appeared originally in The Sentinel on 10th December 2018.