St Albans responds to poll saying health is second most important issue facing the country

St Albans City Hospital

St Albans City Hospital - Credit: Archant

Health has been named the second most important issue behind Brexit in a new YouGov study ahead of next week’s General Election.

The data, taken between May 9-10, shows Brexit is the most important issue according to 69 per cent of respondents, with health second on 49 per cent.

We spoke to two of the main players in St Albans healthcare to gauge their reactions to the results: the cross-organisation St Albans health and wellbeing committee, and healthcare scrutineer Healthwatch Hertfordshire.

Chairman of the St Albans health and wellbeing committee, district councillor Robert Donald, said: “I think the NHS has become so much a part of British values that the idea it is not being resourced sufficiently, or is in danger of being privatised, is very worrying to people.

“They pay for the NHS in taxation and it is something that since 1948 has provided healthcare and emergency clinical services to everybody regardless of income.

“But people are getting increasingly worried because we are living longer, and they are seeing their parents in care. People are very concerned about ageing.

“I think there are also concerns about not enough beds in hospitals, which means waiting times in A&E increase.

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“They are having to wait on a trolley. In West Herts, staff have to put people temporarily in all sorts of clinical areas not meant for in-patients.

“That is upsetting for patients, for families, and for nurses and doctors.

“There are not enough acute beds in hospitals because there are people waiting for social care, either for rehab or to be sent home.”

Acute beds are meant to be filled by people receiving short-term treatment for serious injuries or illnesses.

Cllr Donald said: “Everytime there is a review it is always said we do not need as many clinical beds. Maybe not for acute beds, but people after operations or for people suffering from dementia, they need to have an appropriate place to have nursing services provided, and it cannot be provided at home.”

This is a problem which recently struck St Albans City Hospital, after both the Sopwell and Langton wards were closed, causing the loss of 39 beds for people recovering from operations and illness.

Cllr Donald said: “Those beds are needed but they cannot afford it, so the patients are being put back in the community.

“Ultimately, it comes down to resources. Sufficient resources for the right type of care with the right beds.”

Healthwatch Hertfordshire communications officer Paul Regan said: “There is a saying ‘the only things certain in life are death and taxes’. Well, healthcare in this country involves both of those things!

“We’re all going to get sick, and we all help pay for the health care in this country. Each of us worry whether or not we’ll be looked after when we’re ill, and so it’s natural that it is a main issue.

“This is why it’s vital that people are able and choose to engage with the decisions being made by those who deliver health care, which is a key principle of the work we do at Healthwatch Hertfordshire.

On the issue of how the social care crisis affects the importance people attach to health, Paul said: “As we as a society continue to live for long it’s important that we are able to enjoy our old age.

“If a person is caring for a loved one they need to know that they aren’t doing it alone, that ‘the system’ has their back.

“Some of us need a little extra help to get the very best out of life, and by providing that help we as a community can ensure that as many people as possible are able to enjoy and get involved in everyday life, which is all most of us really want.”