ANDREW LEWER COLUMN: Hospital care remains a priority

Covid restrictions have, in the past two years, significantly up-ended even some of our best made plans, writes Andrew Lewer MP.

By Graham Tebbutt (Edited by)
Thursday, 17th February 2022, 2:45 pm
Andrew Lewer pictured at Northampton General Hospital
Andrew Lewer pictured at Northampton General Hospital

This has been especially true of government. As we come out of the nightmare of the last two years, dials are being reset and our expectations and priorities are being re-calibrated.

The Government, and organisations such as the NHS, spent the previous two years firefighting a terrible virus.

They have hit both brick walls and made major breakthroughs.

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At times it seemed like the old cliché: what we thought was light at the end of the tunnel was, in fact, an oncoming train. But, by and large, in the end we have prevailed.

The great Prussian field marshal and theorist Helmut von Moltke once noted that no plan survives contact with the enemy.

Two generations later, US President ‘Ike’ Eisenhower – applying what he had learned from his time as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe – stated in a similar vein that “plans are worthless, but planning is everything”.

These military observations illustrate the fact that we are not “back to the drawing board”, because governments and systems are always at the drawing board.

They are constantly making adaptations, birthing, then binning, or defending, existing policy ideas and solutions in equal measure to meet the complex and complicated difficulties that face us as a nation.

As I write, most of central government’s “bandwidth” is – or should be – taken up by the threat of war in Europe. But alongside that – as well as very much unwanted, but still concerning distractions – runs work on how to tackle issues that were, at the close of 2019, already concerning and occasionally getting towards crisis point, but are now far more so.

Chief among these – and one of my key priorities for Northampton – is acute hospital infrastructure. A couple of weeks ago I spoke in a Parliamentary debate, in Westminster Hall, organised by Kettering MP Philip Hollobone.

Kettering General Hospital is part of the second phase of the Hospital Infrastructure Programme, which is committing £46 million for a new Care Hub and a further £350 million to follow for a major rebuild.

Although the money has been promised, the cash has not yet arrived to get this work under way, causing Philip to raise concerns of programme slippage.

Northampton General Hospital is impacted by these delays. We have a group CEO, chairman and chief people officer for both Kettering and Northampton General Hospitals.

They are working very closely together and are sharing resources to make sure the disruption is as small as possible for services.

Secondly, NGH is due to be part of the third phase of this major building programme and any delays to phase two will most likely have a knock-on effect on phase three plans.

We have to make sure that this will not happen.

That is why I have invited the health minister, Edward Argar, to visit Northampton General Hospital to meet the key health leaders and staff to gain a greater understanding of the challenges the service faces and help shape the minister’s thinking in order to influence his plans to the maximum benefit for the town.

Like Ike said, planning is everything!