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Thornbury Health Centre

Volume 735: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2023

I will call Luke Hall to move the motion and then the Minister to respond. As is the convention for 30-minute debates, there will not be an opportunity for the Member in charge to wind up.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered Thornbury Health Centre.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Sharma. It is a genuine privilege to have the chance to debate the important matter of how we deliver good local health services on such a symbolic and important national day: the 75th birthday and anniversary of our national health service. Today, it is quite natural that politicians from all political parties will be discussing the NHS—whether it needs to reform or innovate more, and how it can improve—but I take this opportunity to thank everybody who works in the NHS for all that they do and achieve every single day. Like so many others, my family has relied on their dedication, expertise and, at times, compassion in some of the most difficult times in our family’s life. I will never stop saying a huge thank you to the team at Southmead Hospital for all that it did for my family, and of course for so many others in the region.

People access healthcare in a variety of ways: through their GPs, through local hospitals and, increasingly, in their own homes. South Gloucestershire, where my constituency is based, is a growing community. We have new developments all the time, and there are more residents to support. If we are to meet the growing demand for local health services in the years ahead, it is vital that capacity in our local health service is extended, that pressure on the main hospitals is reduced and that our community receives the financial investment in local health services that it requires. That is why I called for this debate—to highlight some of the challenges that we face, but also some of the opportunities ahead of us in the west of England, in building a state-of-the-art Thornbury health centre to provide health services to people right across South Gloucestershire.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. I join him in wishing the NHS a happy 75th birthday, and I thank all those from the Havant constituency who work or have worked for the NHS.

Earlier this year, I helped to launch the construction of the new emergency department to boost capacity at the Queen Alexandra Hospital, which has benefited from Government funding. Does my hon. Friend agree that local integrated care boards and other NHS bodies should use this special 75th anniversary year to redouble their efforts to plan for the needs of their communities in the future, including by taking account of campaigns run by Members of this House?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Like him, I have used my time in Parliament to campaign for improved health services in my community. In Yate, for example, the minor injuries unit has moved to a seven-day service with extended opening hours, and it is delivering extra services, such as X-ray services, at the weekends—a drastic improvement for the community. We are working towards a redeveloped site at Frenchay, which would focus on delivering services as a centre of rehabilitative excellence.

The plan for Thornbury is to focus on primary care, outpatient care and preventive care. The combination of those three local facilities will take pressure off Southmead and the surrounding hospitals and allow people to be treated and cared for in a facility closer to their homes and families. It is important that I put across to the Minister that the campaign for Thornbury health centre is a campaign not just for a new building, but for an integral part of the health offering right across the west of England, which relies on those different parts of the health jigsaw.

Thornbury is a vibrant and growing market town that has already seen significant demographic growth. People who live in Thornbury, Olveston, Tytherington, Tockington, Alveston and all the surrounding towns and villages have been crying out for the upgraded health centre for many years. It has been a difficult and frustrating journey at times, because we have had a number of false dawns—there were consultations in 2010 and 2013—but local support remains extremely strong. It is important to the community that we get this delivered, and the clinical need to deliver it grows week by week and month by month.

This redeveloped Thornbury health centre would include greater access to GP services, greater primary care and out-patient services, mental health provision, social care beds, support to carers and their families, and a specialised frailty hub that would support keeping people in their own homes for longer, with the care that they need. There is political support, clinical support and public support to get this done.

In October 2021, I opened the new Emsworth surgery building, after a six-year campaign that I led to secure funding. Local community groups in Emsworth played a key role keeping up momentum. Does my hon. Friend agree that NHS bodies should always take account of public views, not just clinical and political perspectives?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work he has done to improve health services in his community. He is right that, when delivering these services, there is a clear need for local leaders, political leaders, healthcare leaders and clinicians to work together, to deliver the best possible type of healthcare services for the community.

I would argue that the clinical need for Thornbury health centre is extremely clear. Estimates from the integrated care system for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire expect the population in our area to increase by around 18% by the end of this decade. At the moment, the area is served by three GP practices, providing care for a population of around 21,500 patients. The estimate is that that will grow by a further 4,600 patients by 2030. The new health centre would see these services brought together, providing an integrated service, to the substantial benefit of local people.

Projections from the integrated care board show that substantial medical demand exists for this project. In its Thornbury primary and community care report, it outlines the business case for sustainable primary healthcare services in Thornbury and highlights the specific strain experienced by the neighbouring health services. That report makes clear the clinical need to develop and deliver these new facilities. Out-patient services across a range of specialties have had to face interim relocation during the course of the process. Physiotherapy services are currently being carried out at Thornbury leisure centre, while in-patient rehabilitation beds are provided at the Grace care home. That again would be brought together under one roof under this proposal.

Commercial space would be allocated for pharmacy and dental services, and there is potential for a wider service offering from South Gloucestershire Council, to be delivered as part of this overall project at the site. The clinical and healthcare benefits that a newly developed Thornbury health centre would bring the community are clear and, I would say, inarguable. The ICB is now looking at the Government to provide an answer on the next steps.

On public support, I want to lay out for the Minister and Department the fact that I recently launched a survey in Thornbury and the surrounding towns and villages about healthcare services in the area. As of today—just a few weeks later—I have had more than 2,000 responses, with more coming in every day; some 97% of those making those responses have signed my petition, calling on the Government to deliver the funding required to upgrade Thornbury health centre. More than 90% of those who responded agreed that upgrading the health centre would substantially reduce pressure on the surrounding health infrastructure around Thornbury, and take pressure off the hospitals.

There is significant support in those responses for increasing some of the out-patient care services, with many listing that as their top priority for Thornbury and the surrounding area. That is closely followed by increasing the number of GP appointments, which would be achieved by this development. Proposals to provide more social care beds, a frailty hub and better mental health support also have widespread support in the community. It is clear that there is widespread community, as well as clinical, support for this project to deliver a new health centre, and for the extent to which it would reduce pressure on some other medical services.

Although this project has been frustratingly slow, there has been progress in the past few years. In 2016, the Department of Health, as it was then, opened the estates and technology transformation fund, which was aimed at helping practices to establish the infrastructure to support improved access to a wider range of different services, and increase capacity for providing alternatives to hospitals and facilities for training. We made a local £10 million bid to the fund, seeking to deliver the integrated unit and bring together the GP practices, but it was unsuccessful.

Local discussions continued. I pushed at the highest levels of Government for the prioritisation of Thornbury health centre, which resulted in the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), coming to South Gloucestershire in November 2019 and confirming that he had asked NHS Improvement to take a lead on delivering a new Thornbury health centre. Following that intervention, and with support from NHS England, NHS Improvement and the Department, we submitted a new bid for over £13 million to the sustainability and transformation partnerships wave 4 capital funding pot to deliver a redeveloped Thornbury health centre. Since then, we have regularly raised the importance of getting this done with Ministers, including in a roundtable with a former Minister of State, our clinical commissioning group, the local council, Sirona Care and Health and lots of the other bodies who would be involved in delivering the bid, including officials from the Department.

That was followed by the decision of South Gloucestershire Council, the unitary local authority, to purchase the former Thornbury Hospital site from North Bristol NHS Trust. Locally, we have taken this as far as we can. We have jumped through every hoop and followed every process. We have a huge appreciation of the challenges the Minister’s Department has faced in recent years and of the pressures the pandemic put on the Department. However, health services were given a laser-like focus from Government and are now delivering with the after effects of that pandemic. Clearly, those services must be a priority.

It has been two and a half years since that bid was submitted. Even accounting for all the challenges that we have all been facing and that the Department has been facing, that is a substantial period of time. I want to make the point to the Minister that it is vital that, even though the Department is dealing with significant, nationwide challenges such as tackling the backlog—and it is quite right to focus on them—Thornbury health centre must also remain a priority because we must find a way to deliver services for the changing demographics in South Gloucestershire. This project is ready to go if the Department is willing to get behind it. People in South Gloucestershire are in desperate need of this new health centre. We need a response to our bid so that work can finally get under way to deliver on a project that we all want to see.

I am grateful for the work of a number of different Ministers, particularly the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who took the time to meet me earlier this week to discuss how we can get this project delivered and make some progress. I think and hope that the detail and time that he and other Ministers and officials have given to the project demonstrates its importance, and the level of interest from the Department to get this done.

I hope the Minister can update us and the community on some of the remaining questions surrounding this debate. First, can he confirm that Thornbury health centre remains important to the Government and the Department and that there is the will to get this done? Does the Department have any outstanding concerns that have not been addressed as part of this process? We have had a long and collaborative relationship, but if there is anything that those at the Department are not sure about, they need to let us know. Will the Minister confirm that progress is still being made behind the scenes on the project? Are officials still meeting with the local ICB to discuss its delivery? Also, are they looking at other examples around the country to find ways in which modern methods of delivery could ensure that we deliver this health centre within the financial envelope in the face of escalating costs? Crucially, when will we hear the bid’s outcome, which we have waited so long for?

It is vital that we deliver an upgraded Thornbury health centre. Our bid would allow us to do so. It would provide more GP appointments and better access to primary care, out-patient services and mental health support, as well as a frailty hub to support people in their own homes for longer. The clinical need is there, as is the public and political support. The bid is with the Department, but the project has dragged on for too long. It is time for the redevelopment of Thornbury health centre to really get moving, so that we can deliver the high-quality, local public health services that South Gloucestershire is keen to see. We need it now more than ever.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall) on securing this debate. I know from the many conversations that we have had that it is a hugely important subject to him; he said that he has also raised the issue with the Secretary of State. I know how tirelessly my hon. Friend works for the people of Thornbury and Yate on healthcare and numerous other matters. I join him in referencing why today is very special; it is the 75th anniversary of the formation of our national health service. I too pay tribute and offer thanks to all those who work, or have worked, within our NHS.

My hon. Friend has made a characteristically eloquent and articulate argument for a new Thornbury health centre that would bring together services and provide an integrated service for patients and his constituents. I note that the community is growing, as he said, and that further growth is planned in future years. I also note the specific case my hon. Friend made about the demographics.

Before I turn to the specific issues in Thornbury, I will highlight how the Government are prioritising capital spend in the NHS to transform and improve healthcare outcomes for people, and, importantly, to put healthcare financing on a sustainable footing. The Government are backing our NHS with a significant capital investment that will create a step change in the quality and efficiency of care up and down our country—that, of course, includes South Gloucester. We have already provided record sums to upgrade NHS buildings and facilities so that trusts can continue to provide the best possible quality of care.

[James Gray in the Chair]

Currently, the Department of Health and Social Care’s capital budget is set to reach upwards of £36 billion for the period 2022-23 to 2024-25. That is a record capital settlement. We are using that level of investment to address current care delays—for example, by creating surgical hubs to bring down waiting lists, and an increase in beds that was recently announced as part of the urgent and emergency care recovery plan. That investment will transform the quality of NHS care. We are putting new community diagnostic centres across England, investing in genomic medicine and delivering the new hospital programme.

Despite the eye-wateringly large sums that have been made available for capital within the NHS, demand is high and the calls on that budget from all across the country are significant. That presents us with challenges, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate rightly alluded to, and therefore we need to work innovatively with local integrated care boards on things such as modern methods of construction. I will come to that in a moment.

I want to touch on wider capital funding, because Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire integrated care board has been allocated some significant funding in recent years from those national programmes. That is in no small part due to the tireless championing of the area by my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate, and MPs in his neighbouring constituencies. The funding includes: over £17 million from our elective recovery targeted investment fund for a period of estate works and digital initiatives; over £20 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22 from our critical risk infrastructure programme for A&E improvement; and over £5 million in 2020-21 to 2023-24 for mental health schemes, such as eradicating mental health dormitories and improving mental health crisis centres. In addition, the integrated care board has been allocated over £70 million in operational capital funding, making a total of over £223 million made available during this spending review period. I know my hon. Friend will agree that this investment has been invaluable in updating outdated infrastructure and, of course, in ensuring modern and sustainable facilities for both staff and patients.

I now turn specifically to Thornbury health centre, which is the crux of my hon. Friend’s speech. I certainly understand the need for investment in the area—my hon. Friend has made that case incredibly powerfully today—and I am of course aware of the plans to integrate community services at Thornbury health centre. Furthermore, I recognise that he is keen to see progress on this investment as soon as possible. That is why my officials at the Department of Health and Social Care are working at pace with NHS England, and of course the local trust, to assess how we can take it forward. To answer one of his specific questions, a meeting to discuss options for that investment is scheduled to take place shortly and we are considering examples from recent similar programmes around the country as a template for how to deliver Thornbury health centre.

My hon. Friend asked about MMC, which I alluded to a few moments ago. Modern methods of construction are considered as part of the business case process, and the Department has already raised this point with his integrated care board and will discuss it further at the meeting, at which next steps will be discussed.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s continued involvement in and support for this project, and I am certain that his efforts will help to ensure that we can find a way forward that delivers quickly for the people of Thornbury and delivers value for money for local taxpayers. I can certainly commit that the Department’s ministerial team will continue to work closely with my hon. Friend, and I will personally ensure that the Primary Care Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Neil O’Brien) —keeps him regularly updated on progress following the meeting to which I referred.

Let me turn to Frenchay Hospital, which my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate also referred to. I thank him for his dedicated work in campaigning to secure a return of health services to the site. I understand that the new health and social care facilities at Frenchay Hospital are a key element of the integrated care board’s plans to transform and of course improve rehabilitation care for local people across South Gloucestershire. When those plans are complete, there will be a centre of excellence, with between 40 and 50 beds, for intensive rehabilitation, which will be co-located with new extra care housing. I know that the North Bristol NHS Trust remains committed to its plans for new rehabilitation facilities on the Frenchay Hospital site, and continues to make good progress on its plans, working with the local authority and other partners.

In conclusion, I again pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate and the work that he is doing to support healthcare provision across South Gloucestershire. I can certainly confirm that this Government are committed to delivering transformational investment in the NHS estate across the country and that we look forward to delivering a step change in the quality and efficiency of care. The Primary Care Minister and I look forward to working with my hon. Friend to bring about the local changes to healthcare provision that he and his constituents want to see.

Question put and agreed to.

Sitting suspended.