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Tom Hunt ‘disappointed’ government won’t formally intervene in Ipswich Hospital orthopaedic centre move

PUBLISHED: 08:04 10 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:04 10 July 2020

An artist's impression of what the new orthopaedic centre will look like in Colchester. Picture: ESNEFT

An artist's impression of what the new orthopaedic centre will look like in Colchester. Picture: ESNEFT

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On Tuesday I held my first adjournment debate since being elected: “Orthopaedic services at Ipswich Hospital”. Adjournment debates are an important way in which backbench MPs like me can really bring a local issue to the attention of government ministers in the House of Commons Chamber and in quite a high-profile way.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt spoke about the orthopaedic centre move in parliament. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONSIpswich MP Tom Hunt spoke about the orthopaedic centre move in parliament. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Before the adjournment debate I’d written a significant number of letters outlining my concerns about the proposed new Orthopaedic Centre in Colchester; had tabled a number of written parliamentary questions and raised it twice in the House of Commons’ Chamber in different debates. But leading an adjournment debate on the issue was a significant escalation of my activity on the issue.

I spoke for more than 10 minutes and I did my best to cover all the many reasons why our local hospital shouldn’t be stripped of its elective orthopaedic services. I also outlined my concerns about the process that has been followed to date and the way I feel that both my concerns and the concerns of many of my constituents have been dismissed.

Clearly it’s important that decisions regarding the organisation of our local NHS are clinically led but I do also believe that when it comes to big changes such as this, that the NHS management really do have a responsibility to make the case and take the public with them: clearly this has not been the case in this instance.

The reality is that the local Hospitals Trust and Clinical Commissioning Group have great powers when it comes to charting the way forward for our local NHS and hospital and the old adage “with great power comes great responsibility” could not ring more true in this regard.

There are occasions when the government of the day can intervene with these kinds of decisions, but it is rare.

Essentially this is what I was calling for at the Adjournment debate. Though the minister did sympathise with many of my concerns, he did make it clear that this is a matter for the local CCG and they make their decision about whether to proceed or not next week. Naturally I am disappointed that it appears that the government will not be making a formal intervention. As it stands the prospects for stopping the removal of elective orthopaedic services from Ipswich are not good, for it will be the local CCGs who will be making the decision and their papers that have been publicised make it clear the recommendation is for these plans to be approved.

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I think it’s fair to say when I first started to become heavily active on this matter I wasn’t fully aware of how long these plans had been in the pipeline and the momentum behind them. In the grand scheme of things I’ve come to the party as the local MP fairly late in the day. It’s clear that a number of assumptions have already been made regarding the plans to build a specialist orthopaedic centre in Colchester going ahead.

Having said all of this, I believe it was my democratic and moral responsibility as the town’s MP to represent my constituents’ concerns robustly on this matter and to fight their corner.

If I believe it’s necessary to ruffle feathers on behalf of my constituents then I will not shy away from doing so. Late in the day it may have been, but the decision had not been made and after the consultation responses were published, clearly indicating public opposition to the plans, I was hopeful that perhaps the proposals could be stopped and it was worth me throwing my all into the campaign.

As it stands the prospects of the local CCGs hearing our voices and concerns between now and the 14th and voting against these proposals are not great. However, even at this late stage I have meetings arranged for next week with people involved in the decision-making process to try and influence them right up to the point where a decision is made.

I’ve found the last few weeks deeply frustrating. I can see something happening, a decision that is about to be made, that in my view would have negative consequences for my constituents and I am fully aware of the strength of local opinion.

I have looked at the powers at my disposal as the local MP and have thought very carefully about the best way in which I can represent my constituents’ views on this important matter.

As far as I’m aware I’ve used all these powers and holding an adjournment debate on the matter was the climax of these efforts. Short of wielding the mace in the House of Commons Chamber in true Michael Heseltine style, I’m unsure what more I can do in parliament between now and the 14th. However, I will continue to seek to influence those who will be responsible for the decision.

As I said in my speech on Tuesday, I care deeply for the town I have the honour of representing and I care deeply for my constituents and I know how much both the hospital and the brilliant staff who work there mean to us all.

When it comes to fighting 
for Ipswich I cannot guarantee that I will always get the 
outcomes we want, but I can promise you that I will never be missing in action.


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