Richard's speech at the Valentines Day Rally, organised by Save our Hospital and the Teesside Peoples' Assembly Against Austerity:
Good morning everyone, and happy Valentines Day!
Firstly I want to thank the organisers for putting today’s event together, getting such a wide range of speakers, and ensuring it is conducted in the right manner.
I’m not here today to score party political points. I’m not here to suggest that other candidates aren’t passionate and don’t care about this issue. Nor am I here to hijack a campaign that all of you have been working and fighting on for many years. What I am here to do is give my support to the cause of keeping hospital services in Hartlepool.
My Mum is in the crowd somewhere today. She works at a hospital just down the coast from here which has had many of the same issues. She’s been at many similar events and marches. She and I joined many of you on the march last month because we support the cause, we have personal experience of it, and we recognise what it means. You don’t have to be a “local lad” to see the problem, to want to fix it.
I fundamentally believe that a town the size of Hartlepool needs a hospital. And I fundamentally believe that it needs an A&E. I also believe that this should be at its centre, not on the outskirts and not in another town.
The very purpose of an A&E unit is for it to be accessible in an emergency. This means it needs to be close to the people that it serves. A bad location can be a matter of life or death.
One study showed that for every six miles you have to travel to an A&E, an extra 1% of people died. So for every hundred people needing emergency assistance in Hartlepool and going to Stockton, two of them will die as a result. And if this campaign can save those two people, it’s worth its weight in gold.
I do think that the financial case for the original Wynyard project was questionable. I do think that Iain Wright and many others were wrong to commit so much of your money to decisions that you oppose. I do think that it was short sighted to take services away from Hartlepool Hospital on the expectation that such a scheme would go ahead at a time of national crisis.
Those in power here have a cavalier attitude to spending other peoples’ money. Their response to a problem is never to fix that problem, it is always to spend huge mountains of cash on creating another problem elsewhere. But they don’t have that money to spend. It’s your money, which should be in your pocket. And it’s borrowed money, which has to be paid back with extortionate interest. We’ve just come out of one of the biggest recessions this country has ever seen. It is absolutely right that we should question whether such a large amount of money is being promised irresponsibly. By all means ask if what we currently have needs improvement. But fix those issues first rather than selling people down the river.
Today you’ll hear people talking about Government cuts in healthcare and blaming everything on privatisation. Don’t believe it. The Health budget was not only ring-fenced but increased by the Conservatives. Spending on the NHS has increased by nearly £13 billion since 2010. There are now over 600 more doctors and 250 more nurses in the North East than in 2010. Across the country there’s 1,200 more A&E doctors able to see 2,000 more patients each and every day.
It’s very easy but very lazy to blame a problem like this on some perceived distant enemy. People say it’s Government cuts, or it’s immigrants, or it’s Europe. It’s not. It’s people promising something they can’t deliver.
So let’s learn to walk before we can run. Lets learn to spend other peoples’ money wisely. And lets tell those in power here, both today and at the ballot box in May, that Hartlepool needs and deserves its hospital services.
Have a fantastic Valentines Day, thank you very much.