Health services are the big issues for 2013

With the start of the New Year, we need to have a new look at the provision of health service in North Yorkshire.

I yield to no-one in my admiration for the local doctors and community nurses working in GP practices and local Community hospitals such as the Lambert, St Monica’s and Malton Hospital.

The challenges facing small community hospitals like the Lambert in Thirsk, St Monica’s in Easingwold and Malton Hospital are potentially worrying. There should always be a place for rehabilitation facilities following a fall or a stroke where physiotherapy and other treatments are required before a patient can return home safely. Nowhere provides these facilities better than these Community hospitals, so there should always be a place for them in the local NHS.

Recent plans to merge a hospital facility into the refurbishment and extra care facilities proposed for replacing the Cherry Garth were not supported by the local clinical commissioning group.

Although there is no real definition of extra care, it appears to enable residents to purchase accommodation which has 24 hour access to nurses. Depending on the amount of extra care that a resident requires they will pay extra charges to receive this care. Although this scheme is partly funded by the Government, this could potentially become an issue with the transfer of residential care into the private sector.

Proposals for Cherry Garth included fifty two extra care apartments being built; a mix of tenure types including rental, shared ownership and sale options alongside a range of community/communal facilities including the new Thirsk Community Library

Although late 2012 saw a flurry of interest in North Yorkshire health provision, the fundamental issue which needs to be addressed is the chronic underfunding for such a rural, sparsely populated area with a growing elderly population.

At present, the funding formula is skewed in favour of one particular criterion, that is deprivation, which means urban areas such as West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire receive disproportionately more funds than rural areas such as North Yorkshire and East Yorkshire.

The Government must address the lower funding level for health services in North Yorkshire. It has been said that, if we in North Yorkshire received the same level of funding per head of population as our neighbours in Cumbria, we would see an increase of £160 million in our budget, making a significant difference to our health services in North Yorkshire.

I shall continue to campaign on these issues, including at my next meeting with Dr Dan Poulter, Minister for Health, this month to discuss the funding formula and writing to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, to highlight, alongside other North Yorkshire MPs, the severe underfunding of the health service in North Yorkshire and requesting an immediate review of the funding formula.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year.