Yvette Cooper MP: Shameful running down of the NHS and maternity services

Our NHS is too important to be run down and neglected in this way. Photo: AdobeStockOur NHS is too important to be run down and neglected in this way. Photo: AdobeStock
Our NHS is too important to be run down and neglected in this way. Photo: AdobeStock
The decision by local NHS bosses to permanently close the Pontefract midwife led birth unit is damaging and unfair on families in our area and I am urging them to think again.

Yvette Cooper MP writes: Local mums are being let down.Local parents are losing out because of the shameful running down of the NHS and maternity services by the Conservative government and the total failure to train and recruit midwives.

It’s not just happening here, and it’s not just happening in maternity services. From dentistry to GP appointments to hospital waits, we are seeing serious problems here in the Five Towns and across the country. Our NHS is too important to be run down and neglected in this way

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The shortage of midwives is nationwide. Shockingly in the last two years alone 60 hospitals across the country have been forced to close all or part of their maternity care facilities. Yet the Conservative government who have been in charge for 14 years have failed to act.

That also means hospitals are increasingly dependent on agency staff to fill the gaps and have to pay a fortune to recruitment agencies so everyone is worse off.

But parents are paying the price. The birth of a child is one of the most important times in any family’s life and it makes a real difference for parents to have a choice about which services to use and where they are born.

That’s why I’m calling on local NHS bosses not to give in to national problems over Pontefract. Instead they should be working with local organisations to improve midwife recruitment and retention.

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They must not try to force through this permanent closure plan without any consultation.

When the Pontefract unit was first closed because of midwife shortages five years ago, local managers told us the closure was only temporary and that services would re-open the following year.

I’m really concerned that no serious efforts have been made to re-open the service in the meantime and local mums have been ignored.

I had all my three children at Pontefract Hospital and I know how important it is for local parents to have a voice.

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We badly need government action – including a proper plan for midwife recruitment and retention as well as support for local services.

And we need urgent action in other areas – particularly dentistry, GP appointments and waiting lists too.

This weekend I spoke to a woman in Castleford who is despairing she can’t get an NHS dentist check up, yet we know the government’s NHS dentistry budget was underspent, so far more appointments could have been provided if there had been a proper plan.

I also spoke to a woman in Pontefract who has been waiting for months for a badly needed operation, yet the government is still refusing to follow Labour’s plan to put money from fair taxation of “non-doms” into paying for extra weekend and evening operations so people can get desperately needed treatment fast.

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Across our NHS, dedicated staff are working immensely hard to care for local people but the government is letting them and patients down.

Sometimes it feels like the Conservatives are deliberately trying to drive people into going private instead. But there’s no way most people round here can afford that.

We need to stand up for the principles behind our NHS – free for everyone when they need it, with local services providing high quality care.

Our NHS has cared for us for 75 years. We need to rebuild it so it cares for us for the next seventy five too.