Health Minister visits Hornchurch to get moving on new health centre

Health Minister, Chris Skidmore MP, visited Barking Community Hospital and the former St George’s Hospital site, Hornchurch, on Friday to talk to me and NHS Commissioners about how to get moving immediately on delivering the new St George’s Health and Wellbeing Centre on Suttons Lane.

The Centre was confirmed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week as one of 20 priority hospital schemes that he wants to begin urgent work on to improve access to GP services and deliver better hospital services and integrated health and social care.

Health commissioners are already beginning the process to transfer control of the site from NHS Property to local NHS providers, and discussions have begun with Havering Council about the kind of services that might be provided from the site after the £17 million allocated to the scheme made way for the retention of a larger piece of land in public ownership.

On his visit, the Minister also talked to NHS managers about progress towards delivering improved urgent care services across the borough. A widescale public consultation on urgent care was concluded last year to tackle public confusion about the community urgent care services currently available, and to make it easier to for people to get help and see a GP or nurse on the same day if they need.

From 2020, patients will be able to walk in or book urgent appointments at four Urgent Treatment Centres (UTCs) at King George Hospital, Queen’s Hospital, Harold Wood Polyclinic and Barking Community Hospital. It is intended that these sites will be complemented by eight other community urgent care services across the area, with bookable appointments available through the NHS 111 telephone number and an aim to see patients within a maximum of 30 minutes of an appointment time.

As former Universities Minister, Mr Skidmore was particularly keen to hear from staff about how the NHS provides retraining opportunities over the course of a career, with schemes including reskilling older paramedics looking to get into clinical work and community health workers who want to become qualified nurses. Speaking of the visit, the Minister said, ‘I have had the opportunity to speak to some fantastic, inspirational members of staff, who are also upskilling and looking at how they might change their careers within the NHS in future.’

Following the Minister’s trip to the borough, I undertook a further St George’s site visit this morning with my parliamentary team and the NHS to talk about the site’s potential to deliver broader community aims such as improved special educational needs nursery places and how best to revive community involvement in the scheme.

I am really grateful to the Minister for demonstrating the government’s commitment to swift delivery of this vital local scheme, which has the potential to transform services not just for Hornchurch patients but those receiving health care across the borough.

I was keen today to bring my parliamentary team to see the St George’s site as they are well-placed to tell the NHS about the hottest local topics coming through in our postbag and inbox, put them in touch with the right community groups and give them a point of contact should we need to chase progress in Westminster on delivering the scheme. The NHS’s project leaders are ambitious about what can be delivered at St George’s and I do not wish the project to be stalled by any unnecessary bureaucratic road blocks that my team and I could help tackle. It is great that the Minister is already actively involved in the project’s delivery, and I welcomed the wider plans he set out to improve NHS staff recruitment and retention and provide better urgent care services across the borough.