Wes Streeting, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care today visited Stroud and met volunteers from Stroud Maternity Matters, a group committed to ensuring the survival of Stroud Maternity Hospital.
Mr Streeting, the MP for Ilford North, was first shown around Rowcroft Medical Centre by Dr Simon Opher, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Stroud and a GP in Dursley, before meeting Maternity Matters campaigners at The Silver Rooms in Nelson Street.
Last month Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust issued a statement reiterating their commitment to the long-term future of Stroud Maternity Hospital following the news postnatal beds have been suspended due to staffing shortages.
“I was horrified to find that mothers who’ve just given birth are expected to be rapidly turfed out, and potentially when they’re not feeling well enough or recovered enough,” said Mr Streeting.
“Increasingly what I hear from new and expectant mothers is that it feels like an ordeal – and you know childbirth should not be traumatic for women.
“What we’re seeing, thanks to Conservatives’ mismanagement of maternity services, are understaffed units that are forcing patients out the door a lot faster than they might normally have been. That’s why at the heart of Labour’s plan for the biggest expansion of staff in NHS History is a plan to increase the number of nursing and midwifery clinical training places by 10,000 every year so that maternity units have the staff they need to provide mothers with the support and care they deserve,” he added.
Maternity Matters campaigners have been putting pressure on the NHS Trust to safely reopen the five-bed post-natal ward and welcomed the Shadow Health Minister’s visit.
“We’re delighted he’s come to Stroud to shine a spotlight on the campaign we’ve got going locally, which is just a tiny part of the NHS, but it shows the struggles that the NHS is having nationally,” said Gillian Holmes.
“By having the Shadow Health Secretary here, we’re able to illustrate what is happening nationally on a local individual scale. I’m hoping that there’s going to be a massive investment of funds into the NHS, which has been so desperately underfunded for the last 12 years, and maybe Labour can save the NHS,” she added.
Labour claims NHS figures show that 30,000 patients across Gloucestershire had to wait more than one month for a GP appointment, and Mr Streeting revealed his party’s strategy for tackling these issues.
“At the heart of the NHS crisis is a lack of doctors, nurses and other staff, and that’s delivered the longest waiting times and waiting lists in NHS history and the lowest patient satisfaction since 1997,” he said.
“Labour’s plan is to deliver the biggest expansion of the NHS workforce in history, doubling the number of medicine places at university. We’ll get more doctors, recruit more nurses, more midwives, community nurses and health visitors so that people can get access to faster, better treatment.”
The Shadow Health Secretary stated the ambitious plans had been fully costed and would put an end to scenes of ambulances queuing outside hospitals.
“What the Conservatives have done in the last 12 years is criminal because every part of the health and social care system is broken, and one of the things that we need to deal with is around 400,000 delayed hospital discharges every month.
“These are people who are well enough to leave hospital but don’t have the social care available in the community. That’s why Labour’s plan for health and social care involves better pay, terms and conditions for social care staff so we don’t lose them to retailers and the likes of Amazon which we currently are, because if you can deal with those delayed discharges then you free up bed space.
“That means fewer people waiting in A&E and fewer ambulances queuing outside the front door. Our plan looks at their whole health and care systems and unless we deal with these problems in a systematic way, we’re going to continue seeing patients failed in this really appalling way, and that’s why we see and hear so many heart-breaking cases of people being really badly failed – through no fault of the dedicated NHS staff – but because there just isn’t the capacity in the NHS and social care.”
Pictures by Matt Bigwood