'Politically speaking' by Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury and Mirfield

IN THE last few weeks it seems I’ve had more and more people telling me of their poor experiences of government services.  

I’m frequently told ‘It’s a local matter’. It seems to be a recurring phrase, popular amongst government ministers when replying to concerns about cuts to services.

From broadband to health services, schools to social care, nothing seems to be immune to responsibility being hastily passed down to a local level.

Of course I continue to meet with local service providers, NHS trusts and local authority bosses, school headteachers and college principals, to work with them to get the best outcomes on local issues.

But the truth seems to be that, up against successive reductions to national funding, many of these services are stretched to breaking point.

We’re told that six years of cuts to health and social care services, to funding for schools and colleges, to community services that are the backbone of our towns and villages, are to be resolved by local restructuring, streamlining and ultimately, though less commonly proclaimed, the privatisation of public services.

I’ve taken to calling the Government out on this. This week, I’ve written to the Prime Minister calling on her to see for herself the condition of NHS services in Kirklees.

Having had no reply from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt following the same invitation, (he neatly dodged the offer, passing my letter to a junior minister for response), I’m appealing to the Prime Minister to take off the blinkers and see for herself the reality of the sustained underfunding of our local NHS services.

When the Red Cross declares the struggles of our National Health Service a ‘humanitarian crisis’, I would hardly call this a simply local matter.

A&E services up and down the country are being cut. Hard-working but overstretched NHS staff are reporting patients left on trolleys, stuck on chairs and working conditions that are frankly degrading and dangerous.

But the chronic underfunding of services does of course impact at a local level.

Here in Kirklees, people have told of their shocking experiences and, despite the determined lobbying of local NHS campaigners fighting against the downgrade of services at Dewsbury and Huddersfield Hospitals, we’ve been let down time and time again by the Health Secretary.

So, should the Prime Minister read my letter, I hope that she will make the connection between national policy and local experiences and consider taking up my offer to see first-hand the consequences of her Government’s decisions.

It might be ‘a local matter’ but she must intervene to provide the assurances and resources needed to overcome the very real challenges faced by our NHS.

If anyone has a story to tell with regard to either of the hospitals that they would like me to highlight on their behalf, please contact the office at The Old Dewsbury Reporter Building, 17 Wellington Road, Dewsbury, WF13 1HF, by email to paula@paulasherriff. org.uk, or on 01924 565450.

Paula

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