The recent online survey I held about which issues matter most to people produced some clear results. The local issue which attracted most interest was the future of the William Harvey hospital, perhaps not surprisingly given the current consultation process over the future configuration of health services across East Kent.
I have made my views very clear both privately to Ministers and publicly that removing A&E services from the William Harvey would be a terrible decision flying in the face of common sense. I hope and believe that I am winning this argument, but I know that this will need to be a long and vigorous campaign. It is very important for everyone who lives in and around Ashford.
In the meantime it is important to remember that there are other parts to a large hospital as well as the A&E. A few days ago I was delighted to visit the fully revamped Padua children’s ward, which is unrecognisably better than it was a few years ago.
Some of the changes are very visible. There are stickers along the walls to make the place more welcoming and comforting for its young patients. Changes to the ceilings mean that there is more light. But equally important are the invisible changes. Replacing the old 1970s services mean that there is decent air-conditioning, allowing patients, staff and visitors to feel more comfortable.
There are digital innovations coming as well, which mean that the right kind of medical help can be summoned more quickly than before, and access to patient records will be better and quicker. These changes have certainly improved staff morale on the ward, and I am sure will lead to better clinical outcomes.
So of course A&E is a vital service, but we should never forget that the vast majority of health care takes place elsewhere. It is equally important to get that right as well.