Lively discussion at Kingswood hustings
Published on: 01 May 2015
FIERY exchanges over reductions in hospital provision in east Bristol marked the final hustings of the general election campaign in the Kingswood constituency.
Labour's Jo McCarron and the Tories' Chris Skidmore clashed over the closure of Frenchay Hospital and the delayed decision on a minor injuries unit (MIU) at Cossham Hospital.
Audience members at the event at King's Oak Academy joined in the discussion, as did the BNP candidate Julie Lake. Others in the audience called on the politicians to stop arguing.
The panel was asked whether Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had been right to delay a decision about the Cossham MIU until after the poll on May 7.
Mr Skidmore said that because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, Mr Hunt had not been allowed by civil servants even to read the report of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel about the unit for the hospital, which reopened in January 2013 after a £19m refit.
Ms McCarron said: “If promises are made, promises should be kept. People were led to believe that they would get a speedy decision. He has kicked it into the long grass.”
She also challenged Mr Skidmore over the promised Frenchay community hospital, which is also in in doubt.
The Conservative said that as soon as he became MP in 2005 he had attempted to get the closure of the Frenchay acute hospital overturned. He said he had opposed the reduction in the number of beds at the new Southmead and insisted that the provision of community beds at Frenchay was “still a live issue”.
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate Richard Worth and UKIP's Duncan Odgers both said Mr Hunt should have made the decision earlier but doubted that he would have ruled in favour.
The Greens' Cezara Nanu said the South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is proposing to ditch the MIU in favour of extra services at some GP surgeries, was undemocratic.
Liberal Democrat Adam Boyden said the CCG had halted its alternative proposal while awaiting Mr Hunt's decision. It was time to stop using the NHS as a political football, he said.
The hustings, organised by the Bristol Post and chaired by its editor Mike Norton, also discussed immigration and the EU and considered the question: Should Kingswood become part of a greater Bristol?
Mr Skidmore said that idea was desperately unpopular in the area.
“Kingswood has a distinct identity as part of South Gloucestershire,” he said. Ms McCarron, Dr Nanu, Ms Lake also answered No.”Changing theboundaries is not going to change anything in the constituency,” said Dr Nanu.
Mr Worth was undecided, Vapers in Power candidate Liam Bryan said he “didn't mind either way” and Mr Boyden said that if Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire could form a partnership to getr more power devolved to the area, that would be of benefit.