Issues round local NHS services are constantly raised on the doorstep and in letters to me. Of course people recognise there has been investment. But the lady who told me ‘The NHS has left me’ summed up a wide sense of loss as the delivery of NHS services becomes more distant for local people. There have been many disappointments for St Albans over the last few years.
The city expresses the ambition to be Hertfordshire’s premier community. Yet our City Hospital was down-sized against the promise of a new super hospital at Hatfield, and then the Government reneged on the deal. We have been promised a great new Urgent Care Centre, but the omens do not look good for its delivery given the state of public finances. Maternity services have long since left St Albans, but how happy are local mothers that they will soon only have home birth, Watford or Stevenage to choose from within the county? Just how easy is it to get to Watford General in Vicarage Road on a match day? For people visiting in-patient loved ones, are the car park charges fair (assuming you can even find somewhere to park)? How do the bus routes work for non-drivers? But of course there are good news stories too with the Minor Injuries Unit and the elective surgery unit. There are some interesting innovations with the new county council and NHS Joint Commissioning Partnership Board. So can Hertfordshire teach things to the rest of the country? And most importantly how can we reconnect local people with their NHS?
These are all matters which are likely to be raised at the public meeting we are organising this Thursday. The meeting takes place at the Marlborough Road Methodist Church at 7 pm and the main speakers are Norman Lamb MP, Lib Dem Shadow Secretary of State for Health, and Nick Hollinghurst, Vice Chairman of the Hertfordshire County Council Health Scrutiny Committee. We will hear what is happening locally from Nick and then hear from Norman Lamb on LibDem thinking on the NHS overall – not least within the context of a new age of public spending austerity. And I hope there will be a lively question and answer session to follow. Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting. It will help us plan for numbers if you register your interest via the health survey link at the top of this page. Hope to see you there!