TORY leader David Cameron yesterday (Thursday) pledged his support for the staff of Hinchingbrooke Hospital and for the campaign to prevent the axe falling on vital services to save money. He added his signature to a petition to Parliament that has alread
TORY leader David Cameron yesterday (Thursday) pledged his support for the staff of Hinchingbrooke Hospital and for the campaign to prevent the axe falling on vital services to save money.
He added his signature to a petition to Parliament that has already been signed by nearly one in three residents of the district. The petition is due to be handed in to the Prime Minister's Office at 10 Downing Street later this month by MPs Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) and Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire).
Mr Cameron arrived in Huntingdon half an hour behind schedule, having been delayed by another of the district's bêtes noirs, the overcrowded A14. But he took time out to talk to nurses and consultants about their pressing concerns for the future of healthcare for the district's 165,000 patients.
He emerged from a private meeting with consultant doctors to praise their passionate devotion to their patients' welfare and to demand that politicians stop tinkering with the NHS.
"It is absolutely right that politicians should decide how much money is made available for the NHS," he said. "But then it should be up to local decision-makers to decide how that money is best spent.
"We would have such decisions made independently of Government. Politicians should stand back from the formula that determines what money goes where," he said. (The East of England receives less healthcare cash per head than any other area of Britain because the Government assumes we are the healthiest in the country.)
He said the campaign to protect Hinchingbrooke services had demonstrated how much Huntingdonshire people valued their local hospital and how angry they were at the threat to its future.
"They are baffled about how much extra money has been spent on the NHS and about where it has gone."
To underline the cross-party nature of the campaign, Mr Cameron made a point of spending time with march organisers Mike and Hazel Gough, both Unison branch secretaries, who are unlikely to be natural Tory supporters.
He praised the strength of the campaign, which The Hunts Post has taken a lead in promoting - and, perhaps more importantly, explaining - and the two MPs' efforts to get the message to Westminster.
But he also pledged that, if he led a future Conservative Government, he would commit even more resources to the NHS. In the meantime, he promised to press Hinchingbrooke's case strongly with the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt.
He questioned the wisdom of skewing hospitals' finances by requiring them to repay historic debt so quickly that it distorted their short-term finances.
* An exclusive conversation with the Conservative leader and more news of the hospital, its dedicated staff and their future will be in next week's Hunts Post.