Working for the future of Bedford & Kempston

Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017. 


Bedford Hospital
Local MPs, Alistair Burt and Richard Fuller today gave a cautious welcome to the findings of the independent inquiry into the events that led to the withdrawal of paediatric services from Bedford Hospital last year.

Bedford and Kempston MP, Richard Fuller said “Make no mistake, this report is damning in its criticism of persistent and widespread failures by those in responsible positions at the Hospital; failures which directly led to the dramatic changes in services last year. The Hospital was described as having an ‘at best… muted, and at worst non-existent’ response to concerns about training and ‘a complete absence of reference to the standards of medical education and training‘”.

I am encouraged that December’s inspection of the hospital noted ‘significant improvements’ and I am glad that most paediatric services have now returned to the hospital. But there is still much work to be done and I shall continue my efforts to secure the return of a full range of safe, sustainable and modern paediatric services.

Alistair Burt MP added “The openness and willingness of Bedford Hospital to accept criticism is a vital part of the process of moving forward. Constituents are entitled to the best and safest care, and the hospital must continue to do all it can to build on the inquiry into an unhappy period, and support the highest standards that all those working at the hospital are keen to deliver.

Richard talks to Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt about Bedford Hospital paediatrics

Richard talks to Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, about Bedford Hospital paediatrics

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt today announced his Department’s plans for winter and the allocation of £250million to NHS England, including an allocation of £3.7million to Bedford Hospital NHS Trust.

The funding is targeted at accident and emergency departments to help them deal with seasonal pressures during the winter months.

Local MP, Richard Fuller, who raised concerns last week about the impact of winter following the closure of Riverbank ward, said he was very pleased with the announcement. Richard urged the local Hospital team to use it effectively and, in particular, to ensure its staff are vaccinated against flu.

Richard, who met Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt on Monday to discuss progress with returning paediatric services to Bedford, commented “Winter months will be tough ones for hospitals, but given recent difficulties at Bedford Hospital, this funding will be a “shot in the arm” for the A&E team.”

Bedford Hospital

On the face of it, the Inspection Report by the Care Quality Commission on Bedford Hospital published on August 29th makes strong criticisms of our local hospital. I wanted to read the details to see the extent of the failings and the causes of them.

The Hospital passed one of the nine standards evaluated, had minor or moderate concerns on five standards and major concerns on three standards. Major concerns related to staffing, supporting workers and assessing and monitoring the quality of service. I was particularly concerned about the criticisms about care for the elderly and for those with dementia.

The CQC’s concerns were quite widespread across the activities of the hospital, and in some areas these concerns were significant. However, there were also positive comments to balance these concerns, and recognition by the CQC that the Hospital did provide good quality care in many cases.

The most frequent criticisms related to issues that should have been addressed by the people in charge of the Hospital’s human resources department: inconsistencies in training, lack of succession planning for replacing consultants, ineffective rosters of staff, staff shortages.

Following so quickly on the problems in providing adequate supervision in the paediatric ward, these further criticisms should focus Hospital management attention on sharpening up its human resources performance. These are manageable problems, but the Hospital has to manage them, not hope they will solve themselves. I will write to the Chair of the Hospital to ask what actions are being taken and will raise this point at the Hospital AGM next week.

Bedford Hospital has recently announced that it is making changes to the provision of some paediatric services at Bedford Hospital. This is as a result of failings of clinical oversight of junior doctors in the paediatrics department. Like many local residents, I am very concerned about the impact of the changes on families in Bedford and Kempston and I am working with Alistair Burt MP and Nadine Dorries MP to help find a solution.

Full details of the changes that have been made to paediatrics are available here.

The Hospital will continue to provide a minor injuries service for children in A&E, children’s outpatient clinics, the Day Unit, and nurse-led care for children with chronic or long-term conditions. Maternity services and neonatal services are unaffected and continue to run as normal.

Patient safety must come first and the decisions that have been made have been taken on that basis by clinicians, including the Hospital, NHS England, the NHS Trust Development Authority, Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and the East of England Ambulance Trust.

Last week, I spent two hours at the Hospital visiting Riverbank ward and talking with nurses, patients, doctors and parents. We have a first class team locally and we can be proud of their commitment in these difficult times.

Alistair Burt and I have called for an independent inquiry and this has now been agreed. In this era of transparency in the NHS I believe it is important that the public know why concerns with clinical supervision of junior doctors in this department persisted for so long, what remedies had been attempted, and why these fell short of a satisfactory solution. I hope the Hospital will be open to including a trusted member of the Bedford community – not connected to the Hospital – as part of the inquiry.

I am maintaining contact with the Chief Executive of the Hospital and with the head of the Clinical Commissioning Group as I will want, as I know that you will, to ensure that the Hospital takes all steps to resolve this unsatisfactory situation and to restore full paediatric services to Bedford.

At an emergency meeting of the local Health and Wellbeing Board on Thursday 18th July, Bedford and Kempston MP Richard Fuller raised his concerns about paediatric services at Bedford Hospital. His questions are reproduced below:

“My question is in three parts – how we got in to this situation, remedies for the impact on families now; and how we can recover our paediatric services.

“It is hard to convey the anxiety, frustration and anger that constituents have conveyed to me, to Alistair Burt and to Nadine Dorries. The failings in clinical oversight of the junior paediatric doctors at Bedford Hospital, going back it seems to 2005, will exact a heavy toll on families. It is all the more galling that the consequences of these failings seem to have been entirely avoidable. Will the Board support a full inquiry that will review all the evidence back to 2005 and will you ensure there is strong, independent local representation?

“I have been contacted by many constituents since this announcement by Bedford hospital. A major concern raised by constituents about what to do now, is about the additional transport costs they may incur due to this failure at the hospital. Will the Board look urgently at ways to provide, even on a temporary basis, financial subsidy to cover the additional transport costs for these families? Perhaps a Fund can be set up for us all to contribute to as caring members of society?

“Finally, the plan to return paediatric services to Bedford Hospital. Please can the Board ensure that the Hospital finds a modern, sustainable solution so that the services are robust enough not to be subject to the shortcomings that have resulted in this mess?

Recent data released by Public Health England shows that Bedford Borough is performing below the national average for premature mortality. Bedford and Kempston MP, Richard Fuller, has called on members of the local health and wellbeing board to seek improvements.

Bedford Borough ranked 77th out of 150 local authority areas and was classified as “worse than average”. With 279 premature deaths per 100,000 population, Bedford Borough came below neighbouring areas such as Milton Keynes (265) and Northamptonshire (272) but ahead of Luton (306 premature deaths per 100,000 population).

Richard Fuller said: “This information is a reminder of the need for us to focus on improved preventative healthcare, and I hope our health and wellbeing board will look closely to see what improvements can be made.”

Richard Fuller MP with refugee at 'Dignity in Pregnancy' event

Richard Fuller MP with refugee at ‘Dignity in Pregnancy’ event – Feb 2013

MP for Bedford and Kempston, Richard Fuller, spoke out for pregnant women in the asylum system at an event in Parliament on Monday 25 February.

Richard was hosting the launch of new research from The Refugee Council and Maternity Action that showed UK Border Agency policies are putting the health of hundreds of pregnant women and their babies at risk, by moving them to accommodation around the country, thereby removing them from essential healthcare and leading to isolation.

The charities are calling for women in the asylum system to be allowed to prepare for motherhood and access the healthcare they need.

Richard Fuller MP said:
“Every woman should be allowed dignity in pregnancy, no matter what their immigration status. The Government has recognised this with recent changes but I want to see them go further to ensure a health pregnancy and birth.”

The report explains that asylum seeking women in the UK have high risk pregnancies, often due to serious mental and physical health conditions having fled torture, or sexual violence in their own countries. The study found, however, that due to UKBA’s policies, such women are being separated from the specialist treatment they need throughout their pregnancies, contrary to guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

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The Department of Health has announced that Bedford Borough will receive a 20% increase in its public health budget over two years.

From April 2013, public health budgets will be ring-fenced for the first time, with local authorities taking the lead for improving the health of their local communities. This will help drive local efforts to improve health and wellbeing by tackling the wider determinants of poor health.

The funds, provided by the Government specifically to improve public health, total £5.45 billion for the two year period. Bedford Borough will receive a 10% increase in 2013/14 and a further 10% increase in 2014/15.

Local MP, Richard Fuller, was delighted at the news, commenting “The Government clearly recognises the need to target health inequalities and to help people live longer, healthier lives.

“For the first time, this funding is being specifically targeted at those areas that need it most – based on advice from an independent expert group: the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (ACRA).

“It is a major investment in health and the prevention of illness in Bedford and Kempston.”

Richard welcomed more than 150 delegates to Queens Park for the first national conference on mental health in the Sikh community. 

The conference, which was held at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Ford End Road, was attended by faith leaders, healthcare professionals and service users from across the country. It  aimed to address the stigma associated with mental health in the Sikh community.

Richard has welcomed today’s announcement that disabled people living in residential care will continue to receive the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and its proposed successor, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The government had proposed to remove the mobility component of DLA from October 2012. Richard, who has campaigned on this issue for over a year, said he was delighted that since he first raised the issue in Parliament in November 2010, the Minister has taken the time to listen and consult to reach this decision, which allows disabled people in residential homes to maintain their independence.

As part of the listening exercise carried out by Maria Miller MP, Minister for Disabled People, Richard arranged for her to meet with a Bedford constituent, who had the chance to discuss the impact the removal of the mobility component would have on her son.  

The Government’s decision sends a signal that it will continue to protect our most vulnerable members of society, despite the difficult economic challenges we face. Richard thanked the Bedford residents that had contacted him, as well as the Minister for meeting with him on several occasions and listening to the strong arguments put forward by his constituents.