Henry Smith MP speech in the House of Commons debate on NHS and Social Care Funding

There is no NHS A & E waiting crisis in my constituency, because there is no A & E unit. It was closed a dozen years ago by the then Labour Government, and people who need to access emergency services must now travel nearly 10 miles on single-carriageway roads to East Surrey hospital. That is the legacy of the Labour Government in my constituency.

I am pleased to say that since 2010 services have been returning to Crawley hospital as a direct consequence of the protection and, indeed, enhancement of the health budget to which the Government have committed themselves, and to which they are still committed. I know that this is often dismissed by the Labour Opposition and by others, but it is quite significant that the NHS asked for an additional £8 billion for the coming period and the Conservative Government are delivering £10 billion of extra investment. That has a very real effect.

I do not deny that there are huge pressures on our health service. As many Members have pointed out today, we have an ageing and a growing population. It is fortunate that people are living longer because new drugs are available to treat conditions that were previously not very treatable, but that puts additional pressure on the health service, although, in a way, those are nice problems to have.

We should not use this issue as some sort of political tit-for-tat. Concern for the health service and our wellbeing is felt by us all, both for ourselves and, of course, for our families and loved ones. I think that, when discussing how to address the increasing health needs of our nation, we should focus on constructive arguments rather than the political point-scoring of which we have heard so much today. I have to say that, as other Members have mentioned, in the 33 minutes of the shadow Health spokesman’s speech we did not hear a single policy suggestion on how under a Labour Administration there would be a different approach to the NHS.

I am delighted to say that Crawley this week celebrates the 70th anniversary of being designated a new town. One of the most disastrous decisions in those 70 years was the loss of the A&E in 2005, although, as I have said, some services are returning. Just yesterday a new clinical assessment unit was opened that seeks to do precisely what we have been discussing: take pressure off A&E whereby those who should not be treated in an emergency environment are triaged and signposted to better support services. That unit is to be welcomed. In recent years, a new 24-hour, seven-day-a-week urgent care centre opened in Crawley hospital as well as an out-of-hours GP surgery. As we strive to achieve that 24/7 NHS, all of these steps are ways we can better serve patients and relieve pressure on emergency care in the whole system, which almost every winter comes under additional strain.

I will support the Government amendment this evening, because we need to recognise the hard work done by our NHS staff and the additional investment. This is not just about funding, however; it is also about the way we deliver healthcare in an acute setting when people present.

Finally, I want to touch on social care, because, of course, health and social care are inextricably interlinked. We have an ageing population, as many Members have ​mentioned, and it has increasing health needs. One of the areas of increased health need is dementia, and I am pleased to say Crawley was one of the first designated dementia-friendly towns. That is not just a label; it means multi-agency working between health and local authorities, and indeed the voluntary and private sector, to ensure those with dementia are better supported. I am delighted to announce that recently a new ward, the Piper ward, was opened in Crawley hospital. It is a dementia-friendly ward specifically to better treat the health and social care needs of our elderly population.

I could say much more in this debate, which is of importance not just today but throughout this Parliament, but as we have limited time I will let other Members contribute, too.