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I am afraid that I can give no such guarantee. We are doing the right thingbringing forward our capital programme to invest in our schools and support
our economy. In the case of Stockport, in Denton and Reddish, of 13 schools, two are set to be closed if the Conservatives have their way, and 360 schools are set to be closed
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I should like to thank the Speaker for granting me the opportunity to debate one of the most controversial matters to affect my constituency since I became a Member of Parliament. I would also like to thank the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw) for his attendance, and I look forward to his response. He is a highly regarded Minister and has a reputation for listening to fair arguments. However, I assumed that the Minister replying to my debate would be the hon. Member for Corby (Phil Hope), as he is the Minister for the East Midlands, a Health Minister and, more importantly, the local Member of Parliament who directly benefits from the closure of Rushden out-patient facilities. We could have had a real debate, with proper questioning, between two hon. Members who know in great detail the issues that will be discussed this evening.
I would like to give a little background detail about my constituency that I think will help. My constituency comprises the two major towns of Wellingborough and Rushden, and a large number of outlying villages and towns. It does not have a general hospital, a community hospital or a minor injuries unit. When my constituents need to go to hospital, they have to travel long distances to either Kettering or Northampton. The Wellingborough constituency is a second-class relation to the other constituencies in Northamptonshire when it comes to health care provision. Kettering and Northampton have general hospitals; Corby has a minor injuries unit and is soon to get a community hospital; and Daventry has a community hospital. Wellingborough has nothing, except very limited out-patient facilities at the Rushden Memorial clinic and at the Isebrook facility in Wellingborough.
Our out-patient facilities are now under threat. Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust wants to close the Rushden Memorial clinic and move all out-patient services out of the town of Rushden and into a small town in the Corby constituency. Naturally, I am outraged at the proposal to cut even more public services for the people of Rushden. This is a cut too far, and the move cannot be allowed to happen, especially given that the Rushden Memorial clinic was originally paid for by Rushden people for the benefit of Rushden people.
The Rushden Memorial clinic, which provided out-patient services for the people of Rushden, was opened in 1950. It was paid for by the people of Rushden and workers in the local shoe and boot industry. The memorial clinic was dedicated to the memory of the 138 men, women and children from Rushden who lost their lives during the second world war. It is immoral to move those servicesthe only ones we haveout of Rushden. The proposal is an insult to the town and the people who live there. It is not just me who is outraged. As I said at the beginning of my speech, this is the single biggest issue to affect the constituency since I became a Member of Parliament in 2005. I have been inundated with letters, e-mails and telephone calls from worried and upset constituents. As yet, I have not received any representations in support of the proposal.
My opinion is that we desperately need these facilities in Rushden as Rushden is much bigger than Irthlingborough. We do lack quite a few facilities in Rushden, and considering our nearest hospital is 9 to 10 miles away, people will find Irthlingborough difficult to get to if they do not drive. I strongly support you that this should go ahead in Rushden.
I would like to put forward my extreme disgust at the way this was released to the public. This has not been discussed in any way and completely without patient consultation. I attend the Outpatient Department at least 8 times a year...I am in almost constant pain in my joints and I am now experiencing giddy spells when I move my head. This makes it virtually impossible to drive myself to the clinic and my husband would have to take time off from work to take me to my appointments and, as he works over an hours drive from Rushden, this means that if I have an early afternoon appointment, he has to take the whole afternoon off. If the clinic were to be left in Rushden I can get there either by walking or a friend can take me if school hours permit. I can drive short distances but four miles away is pushing it a little. I gave up work recently for this reason.
We now read they are to move the outpatient facilities to Irthlingborough. What utter nonsense, the population in Rushden is increasing at an alarming rate so why are they considering this move? Is it to get even more money for the land? We were told that the land was being sold to get the money to build a new outpatients so what the hell has happened to this plan? The whole thing is ridiculous.
We need an A&E. Having to go to Kettering is mad. Most of Rushden feels this is needed and no one seems to care about the needs for Rushden. We are fed up with the attitude towards this town.
The people who are making these changes...should let the people of Rushden have their say. After all, it is our town, our lovely town, that is why we chose to live here.
As these comments, and hundreds like them that I have received, clearly show, it is not just a question of retaining the existing health provision in Wellingborough and Rushdenwe need more health provision. We need our fair share of health provision, which has been denied to us for so long. The Government now favour an approach for community hospitals in which a hub-and-spoke system feeds into the main hospitalin this case, either Kettering or Northampton. It would therefore be common sense to put the first community hospital in an area with no hospital provision, but unfortunately common sense does not prevail in this case. There is no valid reason, despite the many excuses one hears from Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, why outpatient facilities should be closed in Rushden and moved to Irthlingborough.
Irthlingborough is a small town that is virtually unreachable by public transport. Let us look at the comparative size of both areas. If one looks at the historic population census for 2001, bearing in mind the fact that my constituency has grown considerably since then, one sees that Rushden and its hinterland has a population of over 38,000. Irthlingborough has a population of just 8,000. The main acute hospital serving Rushden,
Corby and the rest of east Northamptonshire is Kettering general hospital. The distance from Corby to that hospital is 9.3 miles; the distance from Rushden to the hospital is 14 miles. Corby already has a minor injuries unit, and is first in line in Northamptonshire to get a new community hospital, as recently announced in the local media.
I would like to point out that it is not just my constituents who oppose the plan. I have received many representations from Corby constituents pleading that the out-patient facilities be kept in Rushden because it is much easier for them to get there than to Irthlingborough. An excerpt from just one e-mail that I have received makes the point:
I live in Raunds and use public transport to access the outpatients department in Rushden. There is a fairly decent bus service between Raunds and Rushden which is half-hourly. If the outpatients moved to Irthlingborough, I would have to take two buses to get there as there is no service between Raunds and Irthlingborough. The alternative would be to travel all the way to Kettering which is a very long bus journey away and the buses only run two-hourly. Therefore the move would not benefit the patients living in my part of East Northants who rely on buses.
However, the proposed site in Irthlingborough is not only inconvenient for people who use public transport. If my constituents from Rushden and Higham Ferrers had to travel by car to the proposed Irthlingborough site, they would have to go across the infamous Chowns Mill roundabout on the A45. That roundabout is widely recognised by the authorities as a danger to pedestrians and motorists. Only recently, unfortunately, a pedestrian was killed while trying to cross it. At rush hour, Chowns Mill roundabout is so busy that there are extensive queues leading up to all approaches. The district council, the county council, the highways authority and the Government have all stated that the roundabout needs a grade-separated junction and a safe passage for pedestrians to cross. But once again, the Wellingborough and Rushden constituency is way down the line when it comes to public funding and the grade-separation scheme is not even in the regional assemblys forward programme for capital schemes.
I now want to talk about the Rushden project: The Rushden what? you may ask. You would be forgiven if you had not heard of it because health authorities in Northamptonshire have been working hard to brush it under the carpet and pretend it never existed. The Rushden project was formed many years ago. Many local people have been involved in the Rushden project, myself included, before and after I became an MP. It was always the purpose of the project to bring the three NHS facilities in Rushden together on one site. The project was to have an enhanced and comprehensive health facility to serve the people of Rushden and its surrounds, and it had always been planned that the site would be the Rushden hospital site. The logic behind that was that the site already hosts one of the NHS facilities and there is extensive land on which to build, with the additional advantage that the land was owned by the NHS.
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