Francis Maude: Crunch time may have come and gone

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Crunch meeting to save hospital - that was the front-page headline of last week’s County Times.

Crawley MP Henry Smith and I had invited our local GPs to meet with us on Saturday, to gauge their enthusiasm for working with us and local councils to secure a new acute hospital for local NHS patients.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has made it clear that a new hospital for our area is perfectly possible but proposals need to be driven by local GPs, who, since April 1, have taken responsibility for commissioning much of our healthcare.

Sadly, the meeting was less dynamic than the County Times’ headline – a handful of GPs attended and their enthusiasm was muted, to say the least.

Very much to my surprise they were unconvinced of the need for a new acute hospital.

I’ve pushed for a new hospital for most of the time that I’ve been Horsham’s MP – it’s because of the letters and emails I receive and the conversations I have with local people who have struggled to reach East Surrey Hospital and have been upset at the care they and their loved ones have received when they get there.

Well, as of this month, politicians and bureaucrats no longer dictate what health services a local community should receive.

It’s now down to local GPs who see their patients on a daily basis – who hear their experiences and their opinions.

It’s down to our GPs to decide if we might need a new hospital and to move us all to the next stage where we can look at the possibility in depth and decide if it’s actually do-able. So, with most GPs’ surgeries choosing not to be represented and those that did attend unconvinced and unenthusiastic, I fear crunch time may have come and gone.

I’ve now done all that I can.

There’s a policy framework that enables a new hospital to be built and from which GPs could, if they wanted to, commission services for their patients.

There is support from the local council, and a possible housing development that would facilitate a new hospital.

So it’s there to be seized if there’s a will among local GPs to seize it. Over to you, GPs!

Millions of people across Britain, and many hundreds of millions across the world, watched the funeral of Baroness Thatcher.

I am sure they felt, as I did, that it was a fitting tribute to a great national leader and a moving service to commemorate the passing of one who devoted so much of her life to serving her country.

Those who attended the funeral couldn’t fail to be moved by the crowd of spectators outside the cathedral who had turned up to mark the sad occasion and to remember her legacy.

It was a privilege to co-ordinate the arrangements for this historic event, that made Baroness Thatcher’s last wishes a reality – something that I and many others, will remember forever.