Save and Improve Kettering General HospitalPosted: January 13, 2014
It is a year since I launched a cross-party campaign with the MPs for Kettering and Wellingborough to save and improve services at Kettering General Hospital, which serves my constituents. This is a review of our campaign and looks forward to our priorities for 2014.
In August of 2012 I learnt of the Healthier Together review of five hospitals: Kettering, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton and Dunstable. At a presentation I attended the review team outlined their preferred option for the future of hospital services, which was to downgrade Accident and Emergency, in-patient paediatrics for children, and obstetrics and maternity at 2 out of the 5 hospitals. Evidence began to emerge that Kettering was likely to face the biggest cuts and I launched a campaign to save the hospital. In response the Conservative’s initially claimed there was no threat to KGH, but by October it was clear from the Healthier Together documents that they favoured cutting up to 500 beds at Kettering, leaving the hospital unrecognisable and unable to serve local needs. The MP for Kettering, Philip Hollobone led an urgent debate in Parliament in early November to highlight his concerns. Within hours of my election to Parliament, the MP for Wellingborough, Peter Bone approached me about working together to fight to save the hospital. At the same time, in response to the intense public scrutiny Healthier Together was facing, they announced that the consultation process would be extended and there would be a ‘re-think’.
In January 2013 a joint campaign was launched by the three MPs representing Corby and East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough. Following a meeting with hospital bosses, we held a joint press conference to announce that we were working together to Save and Improve Kettering General Hospital, as a cross-party campaign. In the months that followed we met regularly together, with the Hospital Trust, with the local Clinical Commissioning Groups and with representatives of the public and local media, who were supporting the campaign. We secured cross-party support from the four local district councils, who also joined the campaign. In parliament we spoke regularly and often worked as a team to make sure that Health Ministers and others across the government and opposition were aware of our strong opposition to downgrading services at Kettering General Hospital.
On Valentines Day we were told that the Healthier Together programme was being effectively wound up and that the future of hospitals in the area would be decided more locally. At the same time various health bodies including Monitor, that regulates foundation trusts, announced they could not support the downgrades at Kettering. The three MPs turned our attention to phase 2 of our campaign to improve local hospital services in the late Spring and through the rest of 2013. I led a debate in Parliament in June on the future of Accident and Emergency Services and we agreed to make this our priority. We led a delegation from the hospital and from local commissioners to the Department of Health in July to highlight the need for capital investment, and in July we asked the Clinical Commissioning Groups – Corby Healthcare and Nene, to work together with Kettering General Hospital to develop a shared action plan. Philip Hollobone and I met with them in November to hear the proposals and agreed to seek government support. All three MPs will be meeting with the Department of Health at 10am on the 15th January along with all the local health partners to present proposals for £20 million of investment at Kettering General and £3m of investment in local community services, building on the success of Corby Urgent Care Centre and improving these kind of services across the area.
One year on, the campaign to stop the major downgrade at Kettering General Hospital has been a success. The major challenge to improve services for our growing population and increasing health needs remains, and I am committed to continue to work with all local partners in healthcare, the councils, and with neighbouring MPs, irrespective of party politics, to put our communities first.