Last week I spoke in a debate in Parliament on the pressures facing Oxfordshire’s health services. The biggest issue facing us locally is the continued closure of Wantage Community Hospital. It originally closed in April 2016, for justifiable reasons. It is an old building with ageing pipes, and there were continual outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease. However, these are problems that you would think can be easily solved. We were promised a consultation that was going to happen in October 2016 but was instead pushed back to January 2017, and because of the opaque bureaucracy that the local NHS enjoys that was only a phase 1 consultation. Apparently the community hospital was going to be in phase 2, which of course - like the gold at the end of the rainbow - has not materialised.
Last year I convened a group of local stakeholders, local GPs and health managers. It was the first time the group had met together outside the auspices of the health authority. I was surprised by the complete passivity in the face of growing problems. One of the solutions for local healthcare in Wantage is the expansion of the local GP surgery. It is owned by a private landlord, Assura, who have said they would be happy to expand the building. However, I found that they had not even been brought to the table to discuss proposals or funding solutions. I am always happy to work hard on local issues, but I find it increasingly frustrating that all drive for solutions has to come from MPs and not local NHS management.
Staffing is another issue I raised in the debate, and while housing is always a contentious issue locally, we must make sure that local NHS staff are able to afford to live in the area. When talking about the problems faced by our NHS locally, we should not lose sight of the fact that we are supremely well served by some extraordinary men and women. The local clinical commissioning group have been invited to have input into local growth board meetings and I hope they take up this offer so they can discuss ways to make housing affordable to those working in the NHS.
The central theme to all the points I raised during the debate was the need for imaginative solutions. Other local health authorities have found ways to attract staff, whether through golden handshakes or providing housing for key workers. I live in hope that similar solutions can be implemented here and will continue to campaign for them.