PARLIAMENT DEBATE ON HOSPITAL BED CUTS MAY HAVE BEEN USEFUL BUT HEALTH MINISTER STONEWALLED MPs
Hugo Swire’s scheduled debate in parliament this afternoon about Devon’s NHS cuts was attended by almost all Devon MPs.
Ben Bradshaw and Sarah Wollaston unfortunately were unable to be there as they were in a health select committee meeting.
Although the health minister present (I don’t know who it was) pretty much stonewalled all the requests for more funding I do think that virtually all Devon’s MPs getting in a room all collectively complaining that NHS services in their areas being cut, was quite powerful.
It was an interesting insight into the differences between what were all conservative MPs views. Some simply argued against the plans of the local NHS in Devon. Others argued quite vociferously for more funding. But all appeared to fall on deaf ears, if the minister’s anodyne response was anything to go by.
Hugo Swire referred at the beginning to a long list of “demands and asks” – yet at the end of his 10 minute speech all I heard was a list of concerns. The only thing I heard him ask for was a letter from the minister relating to the loss of GP out of hours service in Exmouth.
He was articulate and easy to listen to but lacked the conviction of someone who really wanted to change anything.
Hugo Swire also claimed that those who blamed the conservatives for health funding problems were “immature.”
Other MP speakers included Oliver Colville and Anne Marie Norris – both of whom I thought were long-winded and ineffectual, Geoffrey Cox argued strongly for a fairer funding formula for Devon (he also sounded as though he was auditioning for Shakespeare), Peter Heaton Jones, who also argued for more funding (and stuck to his guns when the health minister tried to slap him down) and Neil Parish, who I thought was the best speaker.
Mr Parish displayed what appeared to be genuine passion for local services and frustration at Honiton Hospital being cut out of the consultation. He asked the minister for action on this, but the minister merely replied that it was a consultation and people should respond regardless!
Mr Parish called for all Devon MPs to oppose the bed cuts rather than a piecemeal approach, which is a position I entirely agree with. He stopped short, however, of calling for more funding.
The health minister’s repeated “gentle reminders” to his conservative MPs felt to me to have a rather menacing element, as though he resented being called out from his office to listen to a group of his own irksome backbenchers. They were “gently reminded” about a range of issues such as the consultation and NHS funding – which the minister said had already been uplifted for Devon.
The bottom line (and only piece of action it seemed to me) was that the minister agreed to write to Hugo Swire about Exmouth out of hours GP cuts. I think that this was it.
Hugo Swire did attempt a last minute currying of favour with the minister by reminding him that it was the Devon MPs who won the general election for the conservatives. Unfortunately the appeal seemed to fall upon stony, if not rocky, ground.
I would have liked to have seen a united front with a clear list of “asks” shared by all Devon MPs (after all they are of the same party), and speeches peppered with searching questions.
I hope that this will be the start of many more such similar debates on behalf of the residents of Devon.