I rose at 2.52pm
Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Turner. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) for her lovely contribution. It was very colourful, as per usual. As well as the subject being serious, I appreciate her opening speech.
I will talk about the crisis in A&E and access to primary care in my constituency. North Middlesex University hospital A&E has recently become the subject of national attention. In December 2015, a patient died in A&E and, at the end of January, the A&E department subsequently received a notification of a risk summit. Waiting times reached crisis point on Friday 19 February, when patients were reported to have been left for up to seven hours on hospital trolleys. Medics came under such extreme pressure that they were forced, at 11 pm, to put a message over the tannoy advising patients to go home unless they were dying. The crisis at the hospital
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did not go unnoticed. It was widely reported in the media, including in my local paper and many major national newspapers such as
Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail
Earlier, the Minister accused my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton of being alarmist. I would like the Minister really to listen to me and appreciate where I am coming from. My constituents were those people in that hospital and the reality for them is very difficult, so I would like her to reflect on what she said.
The incident was not isolated. Separate reports reveal that, over the previous week, paramedics were forced to wait for hours in A&E because there was a shortage of trolleys. One of my constituents phoned my office from the A&E complaining about the unacceptably long waiting hours. She was so worried about her loved ones that she did not know whether to leave her mother there or to take her home. My staff had to talk her through that and told her to stay because that is where the doctors were so it was the safest place for her to stay with her mother.
I believe that the staff in North Middlesex University hospital are under enormous pressure and are doing a fantastic job despite that. The unfolding events are clearly symptomatic of a wider crisis in the NHS locally. A Care Quality Commission report in 2014 failed the department, saying there is an over-reliance from people living in the community. That over-reliance is understandable given the December 2013 closure of Chase Farm hospital A&E, which is in the west of Enfield, the borough in which Edmonton resides. That has put North Middlesex University hospital under enormous pressure. It is clear that the over-reliance on the A&E service results not only from the closure of Chase Farm A&E, but from the pressures on local GP services.
Research published in 2015 by the National Audit Office, entitled, “Investigating the impact of out-of-hours GP services on A&E attendance rates: multilevel regression analysis” found that satisfaction with overall GP services is significantly associated with the level of attendance at A&E both overall and during out of hours. A 1% increase in patients satisfied with their GP practice’s opening hours is also associated with the reduction in A&E attendance. The latest report from the NAO, “Stocktake of access to general practice in England”, shows that patient satisfaction continues to decline. A fifth of those surveyed reported that GP opening hours were inconvenient.
Enfield, in general, has a problem with unhealthy living, which has contributed to the problem in my constituency. We have a prevalence—unfortunately, the ninth highest rate in London—of coronary heart disease. Strokes are prevalent; we have the eighth highest rate in London. Enfield also has the seventh highest rate of diabetes in London. As hon. Members can see, my constituents are very sick and poorly. We need GP services that people can attend at a convenient time, and where they can get an appointment that will ensure they get a referral to hospital so that they do not present themselves at A&E.
With the exception of one ward, Bush Hill Park, Edmonton is, socially and economically, a deprived constituency. Of the seven wards in my constituency, three—Upper Edmonton, Ponders End and Jubilee—are among the five wards in Enfield with the lowest life
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expectancy. Healthwatch Enfield found, through a survey in the summer, that the vast majority of those not registered with a GP in Enfield are in Lower Edmonton, which is in my constituency. However, when the Government replace public health funding by local business rates, as suggested in the 2015 spending review, it will be challenging for an economically deprived borough such as Enfield adequately to fund public health activities to monitor and sustain the current pace of improvement of the health of Enfield’s population.
I wrote to a Health Minister raising my concerns and requesting a meeting about these matters more than a month ago, and I received a response to one of my questions about half an hour ago. I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison) for that—[Interruption.] She has done well. I did ask a few days ago, but I thank her for responding. I was going to say that I received no response but I will not say that because I did. However, I would like to have a meeting, if possible, to talk about the seriousness of the crisis in my constituency and the effect it is having.
Jane Ellison: I would be happy to do that.
Kate Osamor: I thank the Minister very much for that, and I will end there.