Protecting Our NHS

Princess Alexandra Hospital

Robert is delighted that Princess Alexandra Hospital has made big improvements and come out of special measures.

He has paid tribute to the incredible nurses, doctors, porters, support staff and management team for their incredible work.

Harlow is among the best performing hospitals in the country in areas including:

  • Cancer waiting times – Number 1 Trust in December 2017
  • Maternity services – Rated ‘outstanding’ by the CQC and featured in the 2018 documentary Emma Willis: Delivering Babies on the W Channel
  • ‘End of Life’ and dementia services
  • Infection control – Some of the lowest MRSA rates in the country

However, despite the very best efforts of all the hospital staff, the hospital faces three major problems:

  1. Difficulties recruiting and retaining staff due to the hospital being very close to London hospitals which can often pay higher wages.
  2. Poor infrastructure and buildings which are no longer fit for purpose.
  3. Among the highest A&E attendances in the country.

A new hospital would answer each of these current problems.

  1. New, state-of-the-art facilities would offer a far more attractive to work in and would encourage recruitment and retention of qualified staff.
  2. Doctors and nurses would no longer have to treat patients in deteriorating temporary structures which are well past their 10-15 year life span.
  3. A new development could be tailored to the needs of the growing population of Harlow and the surrounding area that the hospital serves, increasing capacity and reducing waiting times.

Robert has been working hard to get the investment for the new health campus Harlow, in order to deliver health care fit for the 21st century.

Please see the timeline below for more details.

Since 2010 – Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow has had an upgraded eye clinic, a new kidney dialysis unit, a children’s A&E centre and an upgraded maternity unit.

26 November 2013 – The Department of Health announces that the Princess Alexandra Hospital will receive £5.7 million in capital funding for hiring more doctors and nurses, and set up more hospital beds. [Link]

25 November 2015 – Government announces in its Spending Review 2015 that it will invest over £400 million over an 8-year period in a new ‘science hub’ which will provide world class Public Health England labs in Harlow. [Link]

23 August 2016 – Department of Health and Social Care announces that Harlow will receive capital funding to upgrade health-based places of safety.  [Link]

21 April 2017 – The Department of Health announces that the Princess Alexandra Hospital will receive over £950,000 in A&E capital funding. [Link]

12 July 2017 – House of Commons debate on New Towns. Robert Halfon stresses the need for a new hospital in Harlow. [Link]

18 October 2017 – House of Commons debate on Capital Funding: new hospital in Harlow [Link]

Financial year 2017/18 – The Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust was successful in securing a total of £2m of Capital funding to support the redesign of the Emergency Department (ED) department. This funding was targeted to improve facilities and support improvements including investment in Paediatric ED.

21 March 2018 – CCG Inspection Report states that the Princess Alexandra Hospital requires improvement. “The building is showing very significant signs of age with a backlog of maintenance estimated to be around £50m, and there is very little room for expansion on the current site” (2018). [Link]

28 March 2018 – The Government announces that North Essex will receive £90 million in community funding for the NHS. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said to be personally supportive of Harlow vision for a new hospital.

8 May 2018 – House of Commons debate on Topical Questions: Robert Halfon urges the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt, to consider give Harlow the capital funding it needs for a new hospital. [Link]

5 June 2018 – House of Commons Adjournment Debate led by Robert Halfon on the future of Princess Alexandra hospital in Harlow.

5 November 2018 – House of Commons Adjournment Debate led by Robert Halfon on the desperate need for a new healthcare campus in Harlow.

Early Day Motions

Robert has tabled numerous Commons motions in his campaign for a new hospital. Link to EDMs

Hospital Parking Charges

Keep up to date with the petition’s progress – and add your name – here.

Since 2014, Robert has been campaigning to scrap hospital car parking charges. These parking fees are a stealth tax on patients, on the vulnerable (including the the elderly and disabled), on visitors, and on staff.

Despite Government guidelines being introduced in 2014 (as a result of Robert’s campaign)…

  • 47% of hospitals have increased hourly parking charges
  • Almost half of hospitals offer no concessions for disabled drivers
  • 49% of Trusts with a neonatal unit have increased their hourly or weekly parking rate – Bliss
  • Parents of children with cancer are spending up to £50/week on hospital parking – CLIC Sargent
  • Nearly 60% of hospitals in England are still charging cancer patients to park – Macmillan Cancer Support
  • 64% of drivers named hospitals as the location they disliked the most when having to pay for parking – RAC

It is for these reasons that Robert rebooted his campaign by introducing a Parliamentary bill and securing a debate which was backed by MPs of all parties, including: Emma Hardy, Frank Field, Lucy Allan, Sir Mike Penning, Martin Vickers, Jim Shannon and Edward Davey. He has most

Robert’s campaign has been backed by major charities and motoring organisations, some of whom you can read more about below.

Clare Laxton, Assistant Director at CLIC Sargent, said:

“We are fully behind Robert Halfon’s Hospital Car Parking Charges Bill as we know the burden paying for hospital car parking, day in day out, can place on young people with cancer and their families. A cancer diagnosis can cost young people and their families on average £600 per month in additional expenses. We support Robert in calling the Government to end unfair hospital parking charges once and for all and ease the financial burden on families of young cancer patients.”

MacMillan Cancer Support said:

“The core principle of the NHS is to provide free healthcare for all at the point of access. But sadly some cancer patients in England are paying extortionate hospital car parking charges in order to access treatment for a life-threatening illness. Macmillan therefore supports Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP’s hospital car parking charges campaign.”

Howard Cox, Chief Executive of Fair Fuel UK, said:

“’Hard working taxpayers do not choose to become sick. Their families should not be punished for visiting their loved ones or attending critical medical appointments. FairFuelUK supporters, already the highest taxed motorists in the world, want hospital parking to be free or at a maximum of no more than £1.”

 

A full time line of Robert’s campaign can be found below:

2014 – Initial campaign begins. FOI Requests sent by Robert to every single NHS Hospital in England.

Main findings:

  • Three-quarters of NHS hospitals in England charge patients and visitors to park on-site.
  • Parking charges vary across England, with one hospital in London charging up to £500 per week to park on-site.
  • The cost of abolishing car parking charges in England was £200 million which could be achieved through prescribing more generic drugs.

June 2014 – A number of Commons motions are tabled to raise the issue with the House.

12 June 2014 – Robert highlights one of his Commons motion during Business Questions and asks for an Urgent Statement on hospital car parking charges.

3 July 2014 – Robert raises another Commons motion at Business Questions. He noted that “109 colleagues from all sides of the House [had] signed a draft Back-Bench motion on the issue”.

8 July 2014 – Robert debates hospital car parking charges on BBC Daily Politics.

15 July 2014 – Robert raises the “ever-increasing hospital car parking charges” with the Health Secretary during Health Questions in the House of Commons. The Health Secretary states that he shares Robert’s concerns that “the car park charges in some hospitals are just too high”.

Hospital Parking

August 2014 – Government guidance published on “NHS patient, visitor and staff car parking principles”.

A number of recommendations are made by the Government, including that concessions should be available for:

  • Disabled people
  • Frequent outpatient attenders
  • Visitors with relatives who are gravely ill, or carers of such people
  • Visitors to relatives who have an extended stay in hospital, or carers of such people
  • Staff working shifts that mean public transport cannot be used

The guidance is not compulsory and NHS hospitals in England are not required to implement the recommendations.

1 September 2014 – Robert secures Backbench Business Debate on Hospital Car Parking Charges.

Robert discusses:

  • The effects of th
    e stealth tax on parents of sick children
  • The postcode lottery that exists in charges across England, with one hospital charging £500/ week and some hospitals charging nothing at all
  • The need to consider hospital car parking as a front line service

October 2015 – Government guidance is updated by the Government to include carers as an additional group that are eligible for concessions. The guidance remains non-compulsory.

September 2017 – Campaign to scrap hospital car parking charges is relaunched. Further FOI requests are sent to every NHS hospital in England to find out what is charged for one hour, two hours, four hours, one day and one week.

Main findings:

  • 47% of hospitals had increased their hourly parking charges
  • Almost half of hospitals still charge blue badge holders to park
  • The average cost to park for a week at a hospital in England is £53.41 and people pay on average £1.98 for a one hour stay
  • A postcode lottery on car parking charges remains with different hospital Trusts setting wildly different fees; one hospital in Surrey charges £4 for an hour of parking, the highest cost in England, despite there being no fees in 2014.

14 November 2017 – Robert introduces 10 Minute Rule Bill to push for the abolition of hospital car parking charges. The Bill aimed to “give peace of mind to patients and visitors when they need it most and support our hard-working doctors, nurses and other NHS staff who are struggling with the cost of living.”

The bill was reported by The Express and Robert published a comment piece on Conservative Home.

1 February 2018 – Robert secures a Backbench Business Debate on hospital car parking charges. The aim of the debate was to call on the Government to “identify the most efficient means of abolishing car parking charges at NHS hospitals in England for patients, staff and visitors.”

The debate was supported by MPs from across the House. A number of national health charities and motoring organisations, including CLIC Sargent, Bliss and FairFuelUK, also actively supported the campaign, through their own research and on social media.

The debate was widely reported, including in The House (Parliament’s Magazine) and by The Sun.

April 2018 – The Daily Express joins the campaign to end hospital car parking charges.

7 June 2018 – Robert launches petition with FairFuelUK, Headway and CLIC Sargent, to urge the Government to scrap car parking charges at NHS hospitals in England.

The petition surpasses the 10,000 signature mark within days, meaning the Government must make a full response.

The petition is widely reported, including by The Express.

10 September 2018 – Robert presents the petition to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, together with CLIC Sargent, FairFuel UK and Headway.

Keep up to date with the petition’s progress – and add your name – here.