The announcement of a £21m investment in Pilgrim Hospital’s A&E department is a hugely welcome boost for local healthcare – and it also came with the extraordinary privilege of a visit from the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary. If ever there were a demonstration that Boris Johnson understands the challenges we face locally in Lincolnshire and is determined to address them, this was it.
The crucial point about such much-needed money is not just that it will speed up patients getting the treatment they need and either going home or getting admitted – this is also a move that sends a powerful signal about the long-term, secure future of Pilgrim as a vital hub for local health services. That will be a major boon to recruitment too.
As Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on a previous visit, the idea that everything has to be centralised is simply not acceptable to him, or more importantly, to the public. I understand that people will always be prepared to travel a certain distance to access relatively unusual or significantly better treatment – but that can never be an excuse for changes which could cause harm in our vast, rural county of Lincolnshire.
Perhaps just as telling, however, was the reception the Prime Minister received at Pilgrim: staff and patients wanted to talk to him, and made time in what are busy schedules and rotas to do so. The sense of support for the man who is investing in the NHS, police and broadband was obvious for all to see.
It’s no coincidence that under this new government support for Wainfleet has recently been announced: the costs of East Lindsey District Council and the local fire authority – running to hundreds of thousands of pounds – will be entirely covered by central government. That means that the burden of 24-hour local staffing to help residents and of herculean efforts to pump enormous amounts of water away will not be borne by a small local authority.
The businesses that provide such huge local employment on farms will be eligible for compensation from a £2m fund too – that means there will be less pressure on them to make savings that could cost people their jobs, even if it won’t help supermarkets fill what will be noticeable gaps in some stocks because of lost crops.
Next up will be the announcement of 10,000 extra police officers across the UK – it’s a sector where Lincolnshire has previously been a victim of funding formulas that favour London and the South-east over areas such as our own. My case to government will be clear: we don’t just need our fair share of these new resources; as with Pilgrim we need to be brought up to the level of other parts of the country.
I’m confident that the Prime Minister came to Boston not because he wanted to see for himself what was needed, but because he knows what is needed, and is determined to show that he will deliver it. That’s what he’s been doing already, and what I will always push him to continue to do.