Ensuring the best standards of healthcare for all in Hastings and Rye is a priority for me as your MP, and it is a commitment shared on a national level by the Government; the Prime Minister has reaffirmed our pledges to provide an extra £8 billion a year to the NHS and to create a truly seven days per week NHS service by 2020.
It is of the utmost importance that local hospitals provide high quality core services to their communities. For this reason, last week, I had an open and honest conversation with the outgoing Chairman of East Sussex Healthcare Trust, Stuart Welling, to discuss the current issues faced by the Conquest hospital and the Trust, which is now placed in special measures following a Care Quality Commission (CQC) recommendation. Residents in Hastings and Rye are rightly concerned, but I firmly believe that to place the Trust in ‘special measures’ is a sensible move for our local area as the Trust will be given access to the resources and expertise it needs to quickly put in place necessary improvements. In practice, the move means the Trust will have to submit a Quality Improvement Plan by the 16th October. To aid this process, Maggie Oldham, previously appointed by the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) as Improvement Director for East Sussex, will work with senior leaders at the Trust to identify where it most requires support. Maggie spent four years as an Executive Director at Mid Staffordshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust whilst it was in Special Administration prior to its dissolution.
The TDA will also appoint a high performing “buddy” organisation from within the NHS which can advise on areas of improvement. Also, there will be investment to improve the fabric of our local hospitals and progress will be closely scrutinised through further monitoring and surprise inspections. These are very positive steps and they give me grounds to believe that significant improvements will shortly come to pass.
There is a major challenge ahead to rebuild public confidence in the Trust, its services and the care it provides, but I am confident that we can achieve these aims.
Notwithstanding current local difficulties, we, of course, have much to be proud of in our NHS - the pioneer of universal access healthcare - and much to be optimistic about for its future as cancer survival rates improve, progress is made on reductions to waiting times, and efforts to improve the treatment of dementia and to advance our approach to mental health care are prioritised.
The emergence of advanced digital technologies opens up unprecedented opportunities for treatment and prevention. I opened an upgraded, energy efficient data centre at the Conquest hospital just a few weeks ago. This centre is an example of how the latest technology will help to deliver a more innovative NHS to offer improved standards of care at a better value for money than before. Innovation will unlock the full potential of our health services.
Moreover, the Health Secretary recently announced that, by 2016, all patients should be able to access their own GP electronic record online and in full, seeing not just a summary of their conditions and medication, but also blood test results, appointment records and medical histories. By 2018 this record will include information from all their health and care interactions.
By creating and nurturing a culture which values and promotes transparency, innovation and constant improvement, I know we can have access to an NHS which maintains its position as the best healthcare provider in the world through the provision of the highest standards of care which we all demand and expect for ourselves and our loved ones.