Health Secretary met by protests during visit to Lancaster

Protestors greeting Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt arriving at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary for a private meeting. Photo: Anna Lee.
Protestors greeting Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt arriving at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary for a private meeting. Photo: Anna Lee.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was met by a pop-up protest when he visited Lancaster this week.

Mr Hunt visited Lancaster Royal Infirmary for a private meeting with the NHS Trust only to be greeted by local people unhappy with the way the health service is being run.

The last-minute gathering was coordinated by local councillor Lizzi Collinge who said: “I only heard he was coming the night before but I know local people feel very strongly about the Government’s handling of health services.

“People contacted me to see what we could do. Every week I hear stories of delayed operations and long waits at A&E. We have hardworking NHS staff battling against lack of resources and a government seemingly determined to make life hard for them.”

The protesters greeted Mr Hunt with calls for him to stop and talk about health cuts.

Local woman Alison Love said “Perhaps the most impressive thing was the interest and support we had from passers-by, some of whom told us in no uncertain terms what they thought of Jeremy Hunt, privatisation, etc. And the frequent hoots of support from drivers - including those of NHS-related vehicles - was great!”

Mr Hunt declined to talk to protesters or local councillors.

Staff at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) were congratulated for their hard work and highlighted as an example to the rest of the NHS by the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, during his visit.

Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt, visited staff at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary with Jane Cummings, Chief

Nursing Officer for NHS England, as part of a tour around a number of acute hospital trusts in Lancashire and Cumbria.

As part of the visit, Jeremy and Jane spent time speaking with a group of around 60 staff from across different areas of the hospital about the changes they have led to improve patient safety at the Trust, including:

*59% reduction in moderate harms in the last five years

*65% reduction in serious harms in the last five years

*34% reduction in incidents resulting in death in the last five years

Jeremy and Jane then spent some time informing staff about initiatives that are being launched nationally to further improve patient safety and reduce avoidable deaths across the NHS, along with new ways to support staff to feel confident in raising concerns.

The session finished with a question and answer session, giving staff the opportunity to ask the Secretary of State questions about any topic they wanted to.

Topics covered included questions about Brexit and the impact on EU staff in the Trust and the wider NHS, plans to train more doctors and nurses, funding for seven day services, and the delays in getting new international recruits into work in the UK.

Coun Collinge, who serves on the Lancashire County Council Health Scrutiny Committee said: “At County Hall we have seen cuts to funding for social care, which is essential to support NHS services and prevent delayed discharges. The government isn’t listening to what’s happening on the ground.”

Her concerns were backed by local MP Cat Smith who said: “On Sunday, we saw reports that one in six care homes are showing signs that they are at risk of failure.

“Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly ignored warnings that underfunding is causing a crisis in the care sector.

“It is time Mr Hunt finally woke up to this deepening crisis in care and the Chancellor committed to the £1 billion of extra funding needed to stabilise the care sector and fund a decent living wage for care staff.”

At the end of Mr Hunt’s visit his official car moved to a back entrance to avoid passing protesters. Unfortunately for Mr Hunt there was only one vehicle exit so his car had to run the gauntlet of local people again as he left the grounds of RLI.

Protesters chanted ‘NHS not for sale’ and there were cries of ‘shame’ and ‘don’t come back’ directed at Mr Hunt.