Tim Hewish is my Parliamentary Assistant. I asked him yesterday to attend a Westminster Hall debate on my behalf. In this post, he sets out what he learned.
Yesterday I was able to attend the Westminster Hall Debate on the Westmorland General Hospital obtained by Tim Farron MP who discussed the closure of the A&E services from one of his local hospitals. What Tim conveyed was not just the sense of loss, but also the strife and hardship that it caused and the resulting years of effort he has put in campaigning for the return of a much needed service to his rural constituents.
He spoke of the 27,000 signatures which were against the closure of A&E and of the 6,000 letters sent in by constituents, he even informed us of the 4,000 strong human chain around the Hospital which was one of the stronger forms of protest.
During this, I kept thinking about the loss of services at Wycombe both in terms of A&E and the maternity unit (which I was born in) and how we too will be entering into a similar struggle trying to return greater local control over our services. Though there were signs of hope from Tim. He asked erudite questions, such as asking Ministers to find records of success of Westmorland Hospital when it had A&E and then to compare this with the other local hospitals and to ask whether they were really any better or worse than the ones that stayed open.
He also told us of when he joined the paramedics on night shift, which gave him first hand accounts of how long it actually took to transfer patients from the scene of the accident to the now distant hospital that did provide A&E services. Listening to this, I recalled the local story a few months ago of two expectant mothers having to give birth in ambulances because the distance and time it would have taken to drive to Stoke Mandeville would have been too great.
Tim finished by asking yet another pertinent question that if the issues surrounding closure were about safety he wanted to know when services became less safe and then asked what was the safety impact to the local population when these services were withdrawn.
Action such as the petitions, letters and human chains goes someway as does questions like the ones Mr. Ferron proposed. All good lessons to learn for our coming campaigns in Wycombe.