On the value of a local hospital

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I have mentioned my gratitude to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn over the last couple of days.

Officially the hospital is on the CQC hit list for poor care. I will not explore details:,suffice to say if you want to fail something you always can.

What I have reflected on is the social impact of this hospital. It is not a specialist centre. It could fairly be described as remote and rural. Its hinterland is smaller than some hospitals despite that because some is in the North Sea. And so the wish to close the hospital will be running high amongst those with a wish to rationalise NHS services in the name of 'efficiency'.

But just think of the consequences. With 2,400 staff the hospital is the biggest employer in the town and region. The diversity of its staffing is vital for the community. It's presence reinforces the fact this is a community despite its remoteness when other agencies, like HMRC, want to pull out.

Downscaling this hospital would be a disaster, for those who work there, for those who use it, for those who live around here, and for the town. I expect the demand for that downscaling will arise in due course though. Hunt wants power to over-ride all such local considerations without consultation.

I am not interested in devolution of all power for its own sake. I do not think everything local is good. I believe in the integration of services, just as I believe in a mixed economy. But integrated services require local presence to be effective, most especially in a national health service. The paradox is national has to embrace local to work.

I am not the first person to realise the value of their local hospital, of course. And like many others I am willing to shout about it. But the fact is that the economic madness of a disintegrated NHS has led to questioning of the role of places like QEH, King's Lynn. It's that madness that needs treatment, not the hospital.