The Bolton News recently reported that out of hours health services will no longer be provided at Waters Meeting Health Centre.
That means if you need to see a doctor in the evening or at weekends you will be directed to the Royal Bolton Hospital. This is a huge increase in travel time for my constituents in Bolton North East, and is worrying when we already know that the Hospital is under strain.
When I said we need a walk-in centre in town we were told closing it would have no impact on A&E because we had places like Waters Meeting. Now A&E is struggling to meet demand and the plan is to cut services at Waters Meeting as well? It’s not good enough.
This decision has been taken by Bolton’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), but they don’t seem to know why. The Bolton News article is filled with excuses: It’s not really us it’s NHS England; it’s not financially viable; we don’t think we have enough staff; people want primary care at the hospital. They can make all the excuses they want, but this is a direct consequence of the Government failing to properly fund our NHS.
Bit by bit our NHS services are being taken away. Many local residents have contacted me because they can no longer see a podiatrist on the NHS in Bolton and may have to go private or struggle on without the care they need. Just this week Dr Bhatiani from the CCG said “Bolton people may not be prescribed some medicines or other items and may be advised to buy them over the counter”.
Our NHS won’t disappear with one blow. It will be death by a thousand cuts.
It is likely that there will be more to come in the near future. Under the Conservative’s budgets, increasing numbers of NHS Trusts are finding themselves in deficit. In an attempt to address this the Government have asked the NHS to come up with “Sustainability and Transformation Plans”. These plans are being drawn up in secret, with no public or professional engagement, and are expected to contain proposals to reorganise services with spending cuts as the main priority, rather than patient care.
On a local level we need transparency. I will be writing to the CCG to ask for clear information about their plans and the current funding situation in Bolton. I will also share information about any consultation on the plans for Waters Meeting as the public should have their say.
Nationally the Government need to take real action to protect our NHS. Every community should have access the care they need, when they need it, wherever they live. When we cut community services people end up in a packed A&E or left on a waiting list for expensive treatments that could have been avoided with earlier treatment. We need to meet the big challenges of mental health, an ageing population, and health inequality. This means investment. Labour are calling on the Government to use the Autumn Statement to halt further cuts to our NHS.