Sometimes there are delicate balances in politics, difficult decisions. Other times important causes are clear and demanding. “Action This Day” as Churchill used to scrawl across important documents.
The NHS have for reasons best known to themselves decided to consider closing the excellent GPs’ surgery in the rural village of Sherston and amalgamate it with 9 miles distant Malmesbury Health Center at an estimated (very probably underestimated) cost of £500,000 or so. The people of Sherston don’t want it. The downsides for them are obvious- especially for the elderly or sick, 25% of whom have no car. There is a bus every two hours- but to the wrong part of Malmesbury, so a non-car journey to the Dispensary, for example, might well take the best part of a day. The GPs themselves don’t want it; Wiltshire Council don’t want it.
A suitable alternative site for a new Sherston Surgery has been identified where, by means of 45 new houses surrounding it, there would be no cost to the surgery or to the NHS. The Neighbourhood Plan, which achieved some 95% acceptance lays it all out in detail.
The NHS Integrated Care Board (who thinks these names up?) are apparently currently considering the ‘feasibility’ of the scheme. I am confident that they will meet with such a torrent of concern and opposition from all concerned that they will quickly realise its total lack of ‘feasibility’ or desirability, or even deliverability.
These things, of course, are matters for the NHS, and (insofar as it concerns planning) for the Council. They are not political matters, nor Parliamentary, nor do Ministers have any direct role, having delegated such decisions to local NHS bureaucrats. And it would be easy for an MP to argue “Not one for me, I fear.” But if that’s what the NHS Integrated Care Board (what kind of Care is not Integrated) expect of me, then they have misjudged their man.
So let’s be clear Messrs NHS ICB: this is a matter on which I personally feel strongly. Sherston needs and deserves its surgery; they have a cost-free plan to preserve it and rebuild it; planning matters can easily be overcome; the people are unanimous in their view. So I really do feel strongly about this one, and will pledge to do all I can to support the people of Sherston in saving their surgery.
It’ll be a matter of a letter writing campaign; no doubt a petition; perhaps public meetings, in all of which I will gladly play a part. Then I will raise it with the Secretary of State for Health in writing; I will seek to ask an Oral Question about it during Health Questions; perhaps a 1.5 hour Westminster Hall Debate to which a Health Minister would be compelled to reply would be a good idea. I am sure that the media will take a keen interest; and I cannot really imagine any interest group or body who will agree with what you are perhaps planning to do. A host of civil servants will be engaged for months just answering our letters and drafting advice and briefing and answers for Ministers. The bureaucratic cost will very probably exceed the imagined saving you are pencilling in through the closure.
So its “Action this Day” on Sherston’s Tolsey Surgery. Destroying it would be an act of the worst kind of bureaucratic vandalism; and I pledge to do whatever I can to prevent it.