Situation Critical

Says Ealing PPC, Rupa Huq, in her latest column on the NHS

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I could describe myself in many ways, not only am I parliamentary candidate for Ealing Central and Acton but I’m ex-Deputy Mayoress of Ealing, proud public sector worker (still employed full-time!) and as both a mother myself and being daughter I have a dual caring role –makes me an end user of the NHS in different contexts.

Ealing used to be known for comedy but the Tories closing 4 A&Es locally, yes 4, with a population of a third of a million, that’s going up not down is beyond a joke. Charing Cross has numerous specialisms - both my parents have used nurology and urology - but 55% of the site’s been earmarked to be sold off for luxury housing…

Both Hammersmith and Central Middlesex a brand new well-rated facility have already shut their doors now diverting patients to already pressured Northwick Park 6.5 miles away which the government’s own quality care commission found to be failing. Next on the list will be Ealing. Tories claim that these units have been saved but their replacement drop-in centres cannot be used for emergencies, they don’t take ambulances. They’re not A&Es.

Next to be axed are maternity services and the A&E Ealing hospital: a place I know well. It’s where my dad passed away six months ago, I don’t fault the care he received… he was nearly 80, lived ten years with a diagnosis of cancer. I miss him every day but when you hear of the boy in north London who died after being rushed to an A+E they then discovered had been closed or the Tory MP waiting for 12 hours on a trolley… these cases dismissed as unfortunate anomalies are only going to become increasingly frequent, if not the norm.

Last week in the same seven days as international women’s day the much commented-on Labour party “pink bus” swung into the borough to support my campaign to be Labour MP in Ealing Central and Acton to protest again Ealing hospital maternity unit’s closure.

Labour's pink 'Woman to Woman' bus brought with it Diane Abbott MP and Baroness Oona King of Bow who were met by Julian Bell, the Leader of Ealing Council, practicing GP, Dr Onkar Sahota and London Assembly Member for Ealing and Hillingdon. and a crowd of non-politicians including mums, dads, babies and buggies.
As someone who’s been in Ealing for 43 years with memories of Ealing hospital going up in 1979 it was sad to see campaigners were gathered to rally against the impending closure of Ealing's only maternity unit – all this in a borough with the third highest birth-rate of London’s 33 London boroughs not to mention the fact that £2million has been invested in it recently.

As Diane Abbott, one of the most instantly recognisable figures in the House of Commons, resplendent in color-coordinated pink on the day commented "People are very concerned about the future of the NHS, men and women. People are very concerned about the cost of childcare, zero hours contracts, low pay and also people are very concerned about tax dodging, and we have a message on all those things."

Indeed the pink bus winding its way round the country and conversations with women in Ealing will help expand Labour women's policy, which already promises to help balance work with care commitments, promote flexible working, tackle domestic violence and increase pay transparency. Yes it may have been controversial but in this instance the colour is a detail and at least that it has started people talking about women's issues. The bus is on a mission to combat House of Commons statistics, which show that 1,160,000 women in London did not vote in the last General Election.

Labour founded the NHS in 1948 to Tory opposition then and only Labour can rebuild and protect the health service now by taking the strain off our hospitals by funding an integrated care system, where residents can see their GPs before they find themselves in hospital and by reversing the break up and sell off the NHS.

Who was it who said “I think of the emergency nurse practitioner in Surrey, still in her overalls, telling me that closing A+E means an hour long drive to hospital for some people, and potentially lives lost”. Any idea? Who predicted that? It was actually David Cameron circa 2007 - another example to add to his long list of U-turns.

So voters need to remember all this as they cast their vote on 7th May and support Labour as the only party who created the NHS and who will stand up for it because if the Tories sneak back into power with their plans for more cuts and closures it’s no exaggeration to say that there is a serious risk that there won’t be an NHS in this country anymore in the sense envisaged by its founding father Nye Bevan and that would be no less than situation critical.

Rupa Huq



12th March 2015