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Witham: MP warns of pending healthcare crisis.

PUBLISHED: 16:00 14 June 2013

Witham MP Priti Patel has warned of an impending healthcare crisis in her constituency.

She says that unless more GPs are brought into Witham and commissioning services are improved, there is a risk of another “scandalous failure in local healthcare provision” akin to recent problems at the East of England Ambulance Trust and some hospitals in Essex.

Earlier this week, Ms Patel raised the issue of pressures on healthcare service provision in Witham with the Health Minister Norman Lamb. She told Mr Lamb that, despite Witham town’s growing population, the town’s GP to patient ratio remains above both the national and regional average. She asked if the minister agreed that the local clinical commissioning group would urge GPs to explore ways to expand Witham’s healthcare provision to meet the needs of the growing local population.

Ms Patel said: “By raising these challenges in Parliament I am demonstrating what a crucial issue this is.

“Too many patients in Witham are being neglected through a lack of proper commissioning where it is needed.

“The recent shambles around the running of the East of England Ambulance Trust along with investigations into Essex hospitals is a clear warning about the importance of putting patients’ needs first. I am concerned that, unless we address this clear healthcare deficit, we risk seeing another scandalous failure in local healthcare provision.

“The case for putting patients first and planning for community-based healthcare is stronger than ever.”

Ms Patel last week announced the launch of a new healthcare campaign, entitled ‘Putting Witham’s Patients First’, which highlights the under-prescription of healthcare in the town, and calls for more GPs in Witham. A report published by Ms Patel’s office warns that failure to do so will compromise the importance of putting patients’ needs first. Despite a rapidly growing population, Witham still has far fewer GPs per head of population than the current average rate for England. In some cases, some of Witham’s GPs are catering for more than 2,400 residents. The average GP to patient ratio across the country is closer to 1,500.

Over the next decade, it is forecast that the population will increase by 12% and that 1,700 new houses will be built in the area. Across Braintree District Council’s area there are more than 20,000 people living with limiting long-term illness, and a further 9,300 people whose health is listed as “not good”.

In a report published last year by Braintree District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee called: “Scrutiny of Transport and Access to Health Services”, the committee said there is currently scope to increase the range of services in GP surgeries, emphasising the need for older people to access services. The committee also noted a lower life expectancy in the Witham area compared to other parts of Essex.

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