On Wednesday, in his spending review, the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed that the NHS will continue to be protected from budget cuts in 2015/16.
At a time when spending on welfare and local government is being cut, the Government is sticking to its commitment to increase spending on the health service by more than inflation. But, while it is right that we continue to fund our health service so it can meet the needs of an ageing population, that does not mean that there should be no change in the way in which local health services are organised and delivered.
I know how much the people of Grantham cherish our local hospital. And I am delighted that the local GPs who are now in charge of commissioning health services for us want Grantham Hospital to improve its services for children and offer a wider range of outpatient services such as chemotherapy, dermatology, general surgery and orthopaedics.
In recent years, it has become clear that most mothers want to have their babies in a facility which can call on the full range of expert consultants and specialist equipment to handle any emergency. But they also want to have local access to the full range of antenatal and postnatal services. That is why, like the Royal College of Midwives and most of the people who responded to the public consultation, I support the decision to relocate the Midwifery Led Birthing Unit while maintaining local provision of antenatal and postnatal services as a well as a home birth service for those who want it.
I know that some people will not be happy about this decision - and I am ready and willing to meet with anyone who has concerns at one of my regular surgeries in Grantham. But I hope that most of the Journal’s readers will be reassured to know that the changes that have been announced this week will bring about an expansion in the services on offer at Grantham Hospital and an improvement in the treatment and care given to local people.