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Hague calls for action over NHS black hole
WILLIAM Hague is calling for an investigation into North Yorkshire's spiralling NHS deficit, describing the potential £60m black hole as “a very serious problem”.
A week after David Cameron described the Conservatives as “the party of the NHS”, the Richmond MP of 23 years said he was unconcerned at the political consequences of taking a battle over health services in North Yorkshire to Westminster.
Mr Hague held a meeting yesterday with South Tees NHS Trust and also spoke to a GPs' leader, days after it emerged NHS North Yorkshire and York may have to consider closing GP surgeries and cutting key NHS sevices, with health leaders warning the proposed downgrading of services at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton could be the “tip of the iceberg”.
He told The Northern Echo he was determined to stop “further erosion” of NHS services in the county and was calling for:
* NHS North Yorkshire and York to launch an extensive investigation into why the demand for NHS services and the trust’s budget management had caused the black hole to develop.
* The county’s health watchdog to refer proposals to downgrade maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for a “truly independent inquiry”.
* South Tees NHS Trust and GPs “not to be distracted” by the rising deficit and to set out a blueprint for the hospital’s future.
Mr Hague said: “I think it is very concerning and very important that the services of North Yorkshire are maintained. It’s definitely for us in this area the biggest issue and the biggest problem. I fully recognise that as the local MP.
“The best thing I can do is to take the situation and the position of the trust to the Secretary of State in the near future, so that at the highest level there is a full awareness of the problem and I will be encouraging him to visit the area so he can see it for himself.
“They do need to be aware at the top of the Department of Health when problems of this magnitude arise to see how things can be done better in the future.”
Mr Hague said it was possible the rising deficit was closely linked to the county's health providers receiving £1,410 for each resident a year, £200 less than the national average, despite it being England's largest county geographically and having a high proportion of elderly residents, who use more NHS services.
He said it was vital Mr Hunt recognised the difficulties of running services such as GP practices in remote areas like the Upper Dales.
Mr Hague said: “As an MP for a rural area I believe there is a good case for rural areas or areas in which there is a disproportionate number of elderly people to have that recognised to some greater extent, but that is up to my colleagues to decide, I am the Foreign Secretary, not the Health Secretary.”
He said: “I see these as problems to be solved. The political implications are not one of my concerns.”