One of the biggest political issues in this campaign has been the health service. A lot have shouted about the NHS and the crisis that Lincolnshire faces but little substance appears to come out of this noise. So let me try and spell it out as I see it and understand it. Much of this is in no particular order of importance and there are many different elements that are all equally crucial to the range of services we need.
- This is a vast geographic area and no one hospital can provide for the whole constituency. For one village or another either Lincoln, Grantham and Boston hospitals are too far away. Peterborough and Nottingham are even further to go, but are larger and have specialist services. In some cases, going to a specialist unit in London is a better option.
- The closure of local cottage hospitals in Sleaford and the downgrading of Spalding and Newark has laid the seed of doubt and mistrust in our NHS and its ability to service local people successfully and equally.
- GP surgeries have taken on more and more responsibilities and indeed the nature of General Practice and front line GP nursing have changed radically, but the perception is that Doctors are massively over-subscribed and have long waiting lists. For many people this is true and the closure of 4 GP surgeries in Lincolnshire makes matters worse. By example, the closure of Metheringham surgery will affect 9,000 people!
- The sheer travel time to get to and from hospital in Lincolnshire has more to do with the poor transport links across the county and years of under-investment by the Conservative County Council has made this situation worse. Virtually all of us have seen the A15 and other roads closed due to an accident and the ability of the emergency services is dangerously hampered.
- This poor transport situation is amplified by the astonishingly poor and indeed dangerous life threatening response times of East Midlands Ambulance Service. This has to improve urgently or be forced into a public inquiry with direct intervention to improve matters before more lives are put at risk.
- Finally, we turn to recruitment and training. The NHS has been kept afloat and indeed turned into the success it is due to the seriously superb injection of international doctors, nurses and support staff. I am grateful to them all. We need to value, reward and retain all of these staff and not pillory them for their heritage or country of birth; but in addition, I would introduce direct training and support with the University of Lincoln being given medical training status to enable the further training, recruitment and retention of staff.
So there is some analysis - if elected as your MP I would look to host a range of local specialist conferences to discuss and debate issues and look to find ways forwards. Quite often the issues facing health are not just money or resources, but how that money is spent. Too few people openly acknowledge that many of our problems are caused by poor roads, low recruitment and retention and by the lack of training and development. When we work together to solve these challenges, we will start to reverse perception and improve services. What do you think?