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Milton Keynes Women’s and Children’s Hospital: New Hospital Programme

Volume 744: debated on Thursday 25 January 2024

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mark Fletcher.)

I am hugely grateful to have been granted this Adjournment debate, on a matter that means so much to me, my constituents in Milton Keynes North and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart).

My constituency and the whole of Milton Keynes is growing all the time—it is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. More and more folk with families, as well as young couples looking to start a family, are moving to Milton Keynes. Our freshly minted city, which is 57 years old this week, is a wonderful place to build and grow a family. People want to build their families in Milton Keynes because there is opportunity there, including highly skilled jobs, good schools and green neighbourhoods for children to grow up in. Milton Keynes is the place to be.

However, a growing city brings challenges, particularly for our healthcare infrastructure. More people means a need for more healthcare capacity, in both the short and the long term. I thank the Government for their efforts so far to meet that challenge head-on.

For those reasons, I am delighted about the investment we have seen since I became an MP in 2019. For example, the community diagnostic centres, backed by £2.3 billion of Government funding, are making a significant impact in reducing the covid-19 backlogs and delivering an extra 6 million vital tests, checks and scans to date. There are two such diagnostic centres in Milton Keynes, with one up and running at the Whitehouse Health Centre and one coming soon in Lloyds Court in central Milton Keynes.

The Maple Centre is another important step in the right direction, helping to provide same day emergency care, meaning patients can get the treatment they need without being admitted to hospital. That has reduced pressure on the main emergency department at Milton Keynes University Hospital, ensuring that patients are treated in the environment that best meets their healthcare needs. In its first year, the centre treated over 20,000 patients, so I offer my thanks to staff at the centre who work really hard to provide the best quality care for their patients.

I also welcome the Government’s urgent and emergency care plan, alongside an investment of over £1 billion to deliver 5,000 more hospital beds. That will free up beds for patients needing urgent and emergency care, and, ultimately, reduce pressures on hospitals. This includes a £3 million investment in Milton Keynes University Hospital, where we have a new 22 bed ward with extra clinical space. I am also delighted that the Government are funding a new breast cancer screening unit at Milton Keynes University Hospital.

Milton Keynes University Hospital serves not just the people of Milton Keynes, but communities in the surrounding areas, acting as a cornerstone in the region. Work must continue to safeguard the healthcare needs of future generations.

My hon. Friend makes an important point that the hospital is there for Milton Keynes, but it is also there for the surrounding areas, including towns such as Buckingham and Winslow and the villages around them. Does he agree that the important partnership between the medical centre at the University of Buckingham and the hospital has driven up clinical standards? When I was first elected in 2010, standards at Milton Keynes University Hospital were not good. They are now among the best in the country. That should be cherished and it bodes well for future investment.

I agree wholeheartedly; in fact, I remember campaigning with my hon. Friend to get that partnership up and running back in 2015. It really is a virtuous circle: because it is now a teaching hospital, people want to go there to learn, and standards go up. It is one of the best places to work in the region, with fantastic staff and fantastic management.

One of the best measures we have for a healthcare system is its capacity to provide everyone with the specialist care they need. That is why I was very pleased when the construction of a women and children’s hospital, which is the subject of the debate, was agreed in principle. It is part of the new hospital programme, and getting it on to the list of 40 new hospitals and keeping it there has been quite a journey. With covid, build cost inflation, and concrete rot being found in other hospitals, which bumped them up the priority list, it has been hard work to keep our hospital on the list. I sincerely thank my hon. Friend for his hard work, and Professor Joe Harrison at Milton Keynes University Hospital.

On the list we are! The Treasury has confirmed the funding and we are a go. Our new hospital will act as the home for paediatric and maternity care in Milton Keynes, while increasing surgical capacity. Through the new hospital programme, the new hospital and the existing hospital will be able to utilise the latest technological developments to create smarter hospital facilities. That means more up-to-date systems and devices, leading to greater efficiency and better care across the whole hospital estate. Another point, which might be overlooked, is that moving maternity and paediatric care to the new hospital will free up capacity in the existing hospital for other clinical requirements. Often, building new hospitals is not just about new facilities, which are of course important; it is also about improving existing facilities and care. MK University Hospital will be able to move forward with its own expansion plans. In that sense, we can begin to unlock the full potential of our healthcare infrastructure in Milton Keynes.

Having seen the architect’s impressions of the new hospital, I can only be excited. With it, we have a brilliant future ahead of us. It is clear that the hospital will act as a symbol of how far our city has come, but I also feel that it will act as a symbol of the new hospital programme overall, and of the benefits of the Government’s ambitious levelling-up agenda. Of course, having a new hospital focused on women and children is not just about the additional treatment; it is about creating the right environment for that care to take place—an environment in which women feel comfortable talking about their health without distress or worry, and children feel that they are cared for in their own setting.

The integration of maternity and paediatric care is key. Having those services all under one roof will make life easier for nurses and doctors, as well as for families. The health of our women and children is fundamental. We must therefore keep pushing for the new hospital to be built as soon as possible, to ensure that Milton Keynes can provide the best care for our young families and is the best place possible to respond to the challenges of population growth. With funding having been announced last May, I hope that the funds can be released soon, so that we can get the plans finalised and get on with the construction work. I know that many back in MK are itching to get the green light and get on with the project, so I would welcome any updates on the hospital, and where we are on the timeline.

Delivering the 40 new hospitals by 2030 is key to meeting our manifesto commitments from 2019. Getting this hospital up and running as soon as possible will demonstrate in no uncertain terms that the Government are more committed than ever to that target.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt) on securing a debate on this important issue. He is a tireless campaigner for better healthcare in Milton Keynes, alongside my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart). Before I talk about the new hospital, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North for mentioning the new community diagnostic centres. I am delighted that the Whitehouse health centre is already carrying out tests, checks and scans for his constituents, with another CDC in Lloyds Court shopping centre coming very soon. As he laid out, Milton Keynes University Hospital has already seen improvements to emergency and cancer care facilities. The addition of a dedicated new women and children’s centre through the new hospital programme builds on that record of investment.

Both my hon. Friends, along with the Conservative candidate for Milton Keynes South, Johnny Luk, have spoken to me in detail about the huge difference that the investment will make for local people. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North hit the nail on the head in pointing out the smarter hospital design that we have developed as part of the programme, and how it will benefit patients. He is entirely right that it will improve patient care, with features such as more single rooms to give new mums the privacy that they deserve, or for families comforting sick children. The design is a major plus for staff working in our NHS too, providing better lines of sight to monitor patients from nurses’ stations, better IT and equipment so that less time is wasted on non-clinical tasks, and a lighter, brighter environment to work in.

The hospital will also boost the emphasis of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on women’s health and maternity care, and I know that she will follow the hospital’s progress with keen interest. As my hon. Friend said, Milton Keynes is rapidly expanding, as the penny drops and people realise what a fantastic place it is to live, work, and raise children, thanks in no small part, I am sure, to his zealous and spirited pursuit of Milton Keynes’ interests in this House. The Government are bearing that important fact in mind, as we work very closely with Milton Keynes University Hospital Foundation Trust on its plans for a new women and children’s hospital, surgical ward block and imaging centre.

In May last year the Government announced a further five hospitals as part of our commitment to build 40 new hospitals by 2030. Structures that were mostly built using reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete—commonly known as RAAC—will be rebuilt by 2030 as part of the new hospital programme, along with two hospitals that were already included on the list. We will not cut any corners when it comes to protecting the safety of patients and staff. We remain committed to every scheme announced as part of the new hospital programme.

I am pleased to inform my hon. Friend that Milton Keynes Community NHS Trust submitted its refreshed strategic outline business case to the programme last week, on 19 January. This will now progress through the appropriate assurance processes, as set out in the Treasury Green Book, to ensure that the trust’s plans are aligned with the national programme approach, are deliverable and provide value for taxpayers’ money. But the intention is very much that these plans will be delivered at pace and with rigour.

I am pleased to inform the House that, up to the end of the 2022-23 financial year, the scheme received more than £11 million for scheme development funding. In the current financial year, we have released more than £600,000 extra, to help the trust develop the business case for the new patient imaging centre. A further £120,000 will be made available for the development of business cases for a multi-storey car park and high voltage supply upgrade. I look forward to receiving further business cases from the trust. I commit to updating my hon. Friend as funding is released for that important scheme. All the money that we have released to date has helped reach key milestones in delivering the plan for the people of Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas, enabling construction teams to crack on early with preparing the site ahead of the main construction commencing in the second half of the decade. The funds also demonstrate our commitment to delivering a new Milton Keynes hospital by 2030 as part of the new hospital programme.

I would like to end by providing a more general update on the ambitious and vital work that we are undertaking as part of the new hospitals programme. I am very pleased that four hospital are now open to patients: the Northern Centre for Cancer Care; the Royal Liverpool Hospital; stage 1 of the Louisa Martindale, also known as the 3Ts hospital—trauma, tertiary and training—in Brighton; and the Northgate and Ferndene hospitals in Northumberland. A further hospital, the Salford Royal major trauma centre, is complete and due to open shortly. Another 17 hospitals are either in construction or in early construction with activity well under way to prepare their sites. This includes surveys and crucial work on non-clinical infrastructure, such as energy centres, demolitions or car parking.

My ministerial colleague with responsibility for the new hospital programme, Lord Markham, has been visiting these sites up and down the country to see at first hand how some of the schemes are progressing. I can assure my hon. Friend that his lordship’s enthusiasm for the programme matches his own.

I thank my hon. Friend for continuing to champion this investment in his constituency and for his continued engagement in the new hospital scheme. He is right to hold our feet to the fire; let the record show that we are committed to every scheme announced as part of the new hospital programme and delivering the new hospital in Milton Keynes by 2030, because I know that he will be holding Ministers to account, as he does so diligently on this and so many other issues.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.