Health Service in Ealing is shrinking before our eyes

Steve SpeechThe snow may not be sparkling on our streets but it is certainly floating down on our television screens and while some of you may be already tiring of Christmas Carols on a tape loop in the department stores there is more than enough of the mystery of the Advent Season and the start of Christmas to send a shiver down the spine and to put a smile on the face of the most miserable.
In all the years I spent working in the National Health Service I came to love working at Christmas.
Admittedly I didn’t have children then and as my wife was a nurse who also worked at the Middlesex Hospital we were happy to take on the holiday season shifts to allow colleagues to spend some time under the tree with their families.
Patients may have winced as this porter pushed their trolley through the corridors of the Middlesex while wearing a paper hat and a silly grin but most people seemed pleased to join in with a bit of seasonal jollity and there was always a sense of camaraderie between us ancillary workers and the nurses, medics and catering staff in the hospital and the police and paramedics who appeared with increasing frequency in Casualty.
None of us would have thought for a moment that our beloved Middlesex Hospital would now be a hole in the ground or that our local services in Ealing would be shrinking before our eyes.
The very idea of an Urgent Care Centre replacing A&E would have seemed ridiculous and the prospect of the place where my wife went on to work as a sister on a cancer ward, Charing Cross, being flogged off to property speculators and hedge fund spivs would have seemed nothing less than a bitter, sick joke.
I actually accept that change is inevitable and the concentration of stroke services on fewer sites has been a great success and has actually confounded my initial misgivings and proved to be a life saver.
Even allowing for that I cannot help but look at the devastation that has been wrought on our local health services and feel the Christmas spirit draining away.
All current indicators point towards a severe worsening in the service provided at Ealing Hospital.
I have a natural disinclination to alarmism but this is beyond paranoia and in the realm of real and present danger.Ealing hosp
The revelation that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has so little confidence in GP provision that he took his children to A&E over the weekend does not fill me with confidence and I shudder to think what might be our fate here in Ealing if we suffer from what are known as “winter pressures” or when we experience outbreaks of influenza or, God forbid, a serious road or rail accident.
I’m lucky enough to have a truly excellent GP and anyone who can keep me upright and compos mentis deserves a medal at the very least but I am really seriously worried about Ealing Hospital.
I went in for an x-ray the other day and was seen promptly and efficiently with the greatest of courtesy and professionalism but everyone I spoke to was desperately anxious about the future.
Not their personal future but that of the hospital.

We face a general election in a few months and, quite rightly, the National Health Service will be front and centre in the campaign and certainly in the debates before polling day on May 7th.
I’m not going to get all political on you and I always respect any individual’s decision to cast their vote however they choose.
All I ask is that you think about the NHS in the next few months and ask those who are asking for your vote what they will do to earn it where the NHS is concerned.
It wouldn’t do any harm to say thanks to the people who are running our health service on behalf of all of us.
If you’re visiting anyone at Ealing why not bring a card or a little something for the staff and I hope that you pop in to the truly excellent League of Friends café for a cup of something warm and cheering and a chat with the volunteers who prove their support for our NHS in the best and most practical way.
We are all immensely grateful to everyone working in the health service in our part of the world and I know that we all wish them the very best of the season and warmest greetings to their friends and families.
When they come off shift and head for home there may well be a light dusting of snow on the streets and there will certainly be lights twinkling in the windows and in some cases illuminations blazing out over the whole house.
IMG_3614I want the NHS workers to come home to a warm welcome but, above all, I want them to look forward to a New Year free of the awful anxiety that besets us at the moment.
That would be the best possible Christmas present for us all!

The fire is lit so now we must fight to win

Stephen Pound says 91-year-old Harry Smith put an irrefutable case for Labour in 2015

new HeadI cannot have been the only person who arrived in Manchester for Labour’s conference running on fumes alone as the tank had been all but drained by the referendum campaign in Scotland. I’d been pointed in the direction of Springburn – which I thought was made up of two names for the same thing – and swiftly overed that in Glasgow the Better Together campaign was the vote that dare not speak its name. The crack team of Steve Rotherham, Vernon Coaker and I kept finding people who whispered their determination to vote for the union but cast their eyes over to the forest of saltires sprouting from an adjacent front garden as they did so. Mind you, when a somewhat street-worn Fiesta screeched to a halt and a very well nourished Yes campaigner charged up to us demanding to know who we were, Rozzo and Big Vern disappeared sharpish (they returned after a decent interval,) and I felt the fear in the air before Harry the Best Organiser in the Land (his official title) rescued me. Normally, conference would supply some sweet relief but the palpable exhaustion hung in the air as the battle weary arrived in Manchester.

Conference normally features the competing demands of the floor, the fringe and occasionally some fun as well. This year we were between the referendum and the general election campaign and I’d not be telling the truth if I didn’t admit that this wasn’t one of those conferences where you could recharge a mobile phone by holding it in the air and letting the electricity crackle.

With respect to my distinguished comrades, I would have to say that the speech of the week was that made by Harry Smith on the last day. The sheer poetry that the 91-year-old Barnsley born hero used to paint a picture of the cruel grinding misery of life before the National Health Service not only moved Andy Burnham to what looked like tears to me but also lit a fire in the hall that will drive us on to May 2015. When Harry told us how in 1945, and still in his RAF uniform, he had voted for Labour and for the NHS he reminded us why we are here and why we must win next year. Kevin Maguire immediately suggested that our next party political broadcast consists just of Harry talking to camera and that gets my vote. There were some great fringes – the Venezuela and Cuba events won’t be forgotten – and I cherished the sharpness of Paul Maskey (West Belfast) when he was on the panel at the CHAMP breakfast when it was pointed out that he, Andrew Mackinlay, Alistair
McDonnell, Billy Hayes and Gary Gibbon had a gender in common. Paul said that this would be the last time and confirmed that from now on CHAMP would stand for Can’t Have All Male Panels.

The Mirror reception on the set of Coronation Street was pretty amazing and I loved the placards that they printed up including “Cameron Resigns after Labour Landslide”, as well as some more dodgy ones.
My two treats at the end of conference were the Manchester City-Sheffield Wednesday match on the Wednesday night, in which I actually managed to unite the rival fans, if only in a shared dislike of southerners, and a fund-raising dinner in Warrington North on behalf of Helen Jones and her great local party. I didn’t know much about Warrington, except that John Bishop talks about Manchester and Liverpool and the something that comes between them being Warrington, but I’ll never forget seeing my first duck house. I hardly believed that such icons of Tory sleaze actually existed but there one was rocking gently in a muddy pond and clearly in need of an upgrade. Local parties raising funds to fight the enemy are great stimulating occasions and it does my heart good to see the comrades enjoying each other’s company and united in their determination. Helen Jones is a real star and has been a good comrade at Westminster, so I didn’t miss the opportunity to run her down in front of her party – as you do.

Back to the Metropolis and straight in to the Iraq vote and hearing a truly brilliant speech from Ed Miliband. No one in our party should ever vote for even the most tightly defined military action without very deep thought indeed but Ed made the case for humanitarian involvement with power and passion. This business is not yet over and there will be dark days ahead but listening to
Ed reassured me that we have at the head of our party someone who has the intelligence and strategic vision to see through the jingoist fog and actually be a leader. Tories take note!

Stephen Pound is Labour MP for Ealing North