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Hull MP tells Commons of rise in constituents' NHS complaints

Hull North MP Diana Johnson made the speech below about Hull NHS services in the House of Commons Summer Recess Adjournment Debate on 22 July.

It can also be read at


Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): It was a pleasure to listen to the thought-provoking contribution of the hon. Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee). I had forgotten how wide-ranging and interesting the pre-recess Adjournment debate can be. We have heard contributions from hon. Members championing individuals, for example, the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) championing Mr Cromer; discussions about children’s TV programmes such as “The Herbs”, which many of us will fondly remember watching; and speeches about the role of the 1966 World cup and how West Ham was instrumental in making sure the cup was won for England. I want to make a contribution about the NHS.

I am growing increasingly concerned about the NHS in my Hull constituency. In 2010, the NHS, both in Hull and across the country, had high levels of patient satisfaction—the highest levels in its history. Of course there were challenges in 2010, but the NHS was well placed to deal with them. Under a Labour Government, Hull had many new health centres: we had a new women and children’s hospital; a new eye hospital; a new oncology centre at the Castle Hill site, just outside Hull; and the new Hull York medical school opened in the city, so that we could produce our own doctors for the future. As an MP, I received very few complaints about the NHS then.

In the past two years, however, especially since the wasteful £3 billion top-down NHS reorganisation, which nobody voted for and for which there was no call in the coalition agreement, things have deteriorated. I worry that the only person who seems to understand or know how the fragmented NHS now operates and fits together is the former Health Secretary, the right hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr Lansley), and I note that he is leaving the House of Commons at the next election, so I am a bit concerned about the situation we find ourselves in today. The number of complaints I have received from my constituents about the NHS has doubled in the past year, going from 16 to 34 in 2012-13. This year, I have already received 27 such complaints.

I want to run through a few of the issues I am most concerned about, the first of which relates to parents trying to seek a diagnosis for their children where there is a concern that the child may have autism or be on the spectrum. The clinical commissioning group in Hull tells me that the standard for this diagnosis is supposed to be 20 weeks, but two constituents have come to me in the past few months saying that they have been told it will take more than 12 months for a child to be diagnosed. That is unacceptable. We all know that the earlier we can get children into the kind of services that will help them, the better. The outcomes will be better for those children. The CCG tells me that it is doing everything it can to address the problem, but that is not a wait that should continue for very long, and I hope the CCG is able to get it down.

I want to raise an issue that a parent brought to me about children regarding Down’s syndrome. There is no national care pathway for this group of children. There is good practice around the country, but that good practice is not in every part of the NHS, and it should be. With the changes to the NHS and to the role of the Department of Health, I am worried that the drive to ensure best practice around the country may now be fragmented and that we may see a return of the postcode lottery.

The headline story in today’s Hull Daily Mail is that almost 4,000 patients in East Yorkshire are now forced to wait more than 18 weeks to see a hospital consultant. The areas in which they have to wait are orthopaedics, neurology and colorectal and thoracic medicine. It is a concern that ill people have to wait to be seen.

Finally, I have had complaints about A and E and the acute assessment unit at Hull Royal infirmary. The complaints are often about waiting times to be seen by doctors. Many people say that they think the staff are doing a good job, but are overstretched. A constituent sent me an e-mail in which she said:

“My husband was admitted to Hull Royal Infirmary on New Year’s day with a major asthma attack due to a viral chest infection. He received excellent care by the staff both in the ambulance and those on duty. However, the overcrowding in A&E gives serious cause for concern. Many dozens of poorly people were waiting on trolleys in the corridors. The staff were run ragged.”

She said that her husband had to wait 11 hours to get the results of an X-ray and blood test. She went on to say:

“If A&E is the barometer of the Health Service then it is sadly in trouble. The NHS had improved so much under Labour.”

Let me read out another case that was sent to me by my caseworker:

“The constituent’s father had been unwell for over a year. He was admitted to Hull Royal Infirmary…where he was on the Acute Assessment Unit Ward with suspected tuberculosis. When the constituent visited him the next day, they found that: the drip in his arm had not been put into a vein; he had been laid in his own urine; there was no way for him to attract the nurse’s attention; and nobody had checked on him for 6 hours. He was discharged the following Tuesday, however he was still poorly and had difficulty walking. He still had a cannula in his arm. The constituent had to go back to the hospital to collect his medication, and she found out that the nursing staff didn’t know why he had been discharged. The constituent said she was later told by a nurse and her family’s GP that he had been sent home to die.”

Those are just two examples from my growing postbag. I am truly shocked—I am sure that other Members are too—to hear these harrowing accounts of the care that my constituents have received.

Admittedly, not all the problems with Hull’s NHS as reported in our recent CQC report, such as the totally unacceptable bullying culture, may be entirely made in Whitehall. However, these problems seem to have come to the fore in the past two years, after the NHS reorganisation.

There is another matter that I want to raise, one that I have raised before with the Secretary of State during Health questions. The former chief executive of Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Phil Morley, suddenly resigned just before the publication of a very poor CQC report, which highlighted the bullying culture in the trust. I was shocked to read, just a few weeks later, that he has now resurfaced as the new chief executive in Harlow, Essex. I thought that the new Health Secretary was going to end this revolving door of chief executives moving from trust to trust, but he has not, and I am very anxious that we should deal with the matter.

I am also still waiting for an answer to another question. The CQC report mentioned a shortage of junior doctors in our local hospitals. I do not understand that. As I said at the beginning of my speech, we have the Hull York medical school in Hull, which was designed to train doctors for the local area, so I do not understand where the junior doctors are going.

I also want to mention the privatisation going on under the coalition’s NHS reforms. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) has tabled a private Member’s Bill that will have its Second Reading in November and would scrap the competition framework set out in the coalition’s NHS legislation. I hope that the Liberal Democrats might support my hon. Friend’s Bill.

Let me raise just one more issue to do with health. Last winter, A and Es around the country received extra money to cope with the winter pressures: some £250 million was made available. Hull did not get any of that money, but the CQC report to which I have referred made it quite clear that the inspectors felt that A and E needed extra assistance and support. I say again, as I have on many occasions, that Hull often seems to miss out on moneys that are very much needed in a city that has considerable health inequalities and where people develop chronic illnesses much younger than they do in other parts of the country.

The NHS is a key issue for many of my constituents. I will be out and about over the summer listening to their concerns about the NHS and about what is going on locally. I am seriously worried by what has happened over the past two years. I remember very clearly the Prime Minister saying in 2010 that the NHS was safe in his hands. Four years on, I do not particularly think that he has kept that promise, and I think that over the coming 12 months we will start to see more and more issues raised about the state of the NHS.

I finish by taking this opportunity to wish everybody a good recess, particularly the staff of the House, who serve us so well

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