Sex attacks on Ambulance Staff have rocketed by 211% over five years, according to the GMB Union. Figures revealed by Ambulance Trusts under a Freedom of Information request show there were 53 recorded incidents in 2012/13, but by 2016/17 it had risen to 165. There have been at least 688 sexual assaults on staff since 2012/13. The GMB is quite rightly campaigning for sexual assaults to be included in the proposed new Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, and I stand shoulder to shoulder with them on this. I have previously written about so called ‘no go’ zones or addresses in Hartlepool for paramedics, but this takes matters to a new level. Such attacks are unacceptable and clearly on the increase.
Mental health problems in young people are unfortunately also on the increase, so I was pleased to help promote awareness of this growing issue by visiting Year 11 students at High Tunstall and listen to the incredible work they’ve done on the subject as part of their Citizenship studies. I was extremely impressed by their knowledge and awareness of the issue, and the ideas they had for tackling it both in school and in the wider community.
Mental health is under resourced and often looked upon as a ‘Cinderella Service’ compared to other sections of the NHS, and it doesn’t help that this week there has been some alarming news from our local Mental Health Trust – Tees, Esk and Wear Valley. First, the fact that they have had to temporarily suspend services at Holme House Prison in Stockton due to the proliferation of the use of the drug ‘spice’ amongst inmates, is shocking news and a sad indictment of the state of our prisons. For them to be declared too dangerous for mental health workers to go into in order to treat people, including inmates from Hartlepool, is a terrible state of affairs. Secondly, the fact that the almost brand spanking new hospital at Roseberry Park, funded via a Private Finance Initiative, is in that much of a state that it practically has to be rebuilt in parts is equally shocking. It’s supposed to be a state of the art facility costing millions of pounds, and yet its patients have to be decanted into places like our own Sandwell Park Hospital while reparation work takes place. It simply is a disgrace and an example of the perils of PFI.
Speaking of which, I was pleased to have been given the task of leading a debate this week in Westminster Hall on NHS privatisation. The debate was a result of over 100,000 people petitioning Parliament on the subject, in light of increased reliance by the NHS on private providers like Virgin, Circle, Care UK and Carillion. It is estimated that over the next 3 years, £10 billion worth of NHS spend will go to the private sector. That is money which, in my opinion, would be best reinvested in services directly provided by the NHS, which should always remain free at the point of need.
And so, we come onto the subject of our own Trust – North Tees and Hartlepool. Like me, health campaigners are keeping a close eye on the midwife-led Birthing Unit at Hartlepool Hospital, with such low rates of births there last year. But the news that NHS England want to downgrade intensive care for local babies at the University Hospital of North Tees has worried many, and has prompted the Council to raise ‘extreme’ concerns over future care for Hartlepool infants in need of acute neonatal treatment. Original reports were that only around 20 babies per year would be affected by a move of some services to the James Cook in Middlesbrough and the Sunderland Royal, but other sources have told Councillors that the number of cots at North Tees could be reduced by more than half. We really do need to get to the bottom of this and quickly.