Protecting Our NHS

Princess Alexandra Hospital

I have seen first-hand that the staff and the management team at Princess Alexandra Hospital work incredibly hard and do an amazing job for Harlow residents. As MP, I get many emails and letters from residents who have had an excellent and caring service from our hospital.

It is important to note, that despite its difficulties, the hospital has several areas of outstanding practice, which include:

  • The ward manager for the Dolphin children’s ward hassignificantly improved the ward and performance of children’s services.
  • The tissue viability nurse produced models of pressure ulcers to support the education and prevention of pressure ulcer development in theatres.
  • The improvement and dedication to resolve the backlog and issues within outpatients is outstanding.
  • The advanced nurse practitioner groups within the emergency department are an outstanding team who work to improve care for their patients.
  • The gynaecology early pregnancy unit and termination services are outstanding and provide a very responsive service which meets the needs of women.
  • The outcomes for women in the maternity service are outstanding.
  • MSSA rates reported at the trust place them in the top quartile in the country.
  • The permanent staff who work within women’s services are passionate, dedicated and determined to deliver the best care possible for women.
  • The lead nurse for dementia is innovative in their strategy to improve the care for people living with dementia.
  • The hospital is exceeding all key cancer diagnosis and treatment targets
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The recent CQC report also notes that staff in every area of the hospital are rated Good or Outstanding for their level of patient care. However, clearly there are significant difficulties that the management team, nurses, doctors and other staff are working hard to overcome.

There are four major problems that the hospital faces:

  1. It has more A&E admissions per head than almost anywhere in the country. The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust has seen 21,919 more patients in 2015/16 than in did in 2009/10, a 27.14% increase over the 5 years.
  2. The age of the building means that parts of it are not fit-for-purpose and it needs constant financial assistance just to keep going. Although the Government have given Princess Alexandra Hospital £48.8million extra of capital investment for this since 2010, this is an ongoing problem.
  3. The long term future of the hospital needs to be looked at. It needs to be decided whether a new hospital should be built.
  4. Recruitment is a massive challenge because of Harlow’s position in close proximity to London and Cambridge. The hospital spends a lot of money on recruitment, but there is still a 50% nurse vacancy rate in some wards which means that agency nurses have to be brought in.

The Government is investing in our hospital. Their budget for care this year is £200 million, which is an increase from the previous year. There is an additional £8 million budget this year for capital investment, £4 million of this is creating an extra 35 beds for patients. On top of this, since 2010, there has been an upgraded eye clinic, a new kidney dialysis unit, a children’s A&E centre and an upgraded maternity unit. This year, Princess Alexandra Hospital is also receiving an extra £800,000 to cover increased pressure on A&E over the winter. While the hospital has an ongoing budget deficit, the Government covers this. Nevertheless, there is always a need for more funding, which, of course, I will continue to work hard to secure from the Government.

Nationally, the Government is spending an additional £10 billion a year in real terms on the NHS, the amount that NHS England requested. This money will allow the NHS to offer 800,000 more operations and treatments and spend £2 billion more on new drugs. The Government has already delivered an extra 10,000 doctors since 2010 and it is committed to increasing the staff available to the NHS by 80,000 by 2020.

I have been working hard with the chief executive of our hospital to help solve the problems they face. We had a recent meeting with the Health Secretary and key health officials and I have also had discussions, including one last night, with the Hospitals Minister, Phillip Dunne MP, who has pledged to visit the hospital in the near future. I will always stand up for Princess Alexandra Hospital, it’s incredibly hard working staff and, of course, the many patients that are looked after there. I will continue to work with all relevant parties to make sure that we get the best possible outcome for Harlow.”

MP Robert Halfon visits Christmas workers at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow

Hospital Parking Charges

Another issue I have been involved with is campaigning against  hospital parking charges at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and nationally. In  response to my campaign, the Government announced in August 2014  that they were publishing new guidelines, and asking hospitals to  provide concessions to certain groups. This is a very welcome announcement by the Government and a great step forward for the campaign. Although in the long term, I would still like to see hospital parking fees scrapped altogether, this is still a fantastic success. I firmly believe that hospitals must give free or a reduced parking fee to priority groups, including visitors with relatives who are gravely ill or have an extended stay in hospital, according to new government guidance published today.Hospital Parking