Prime Minister rejects NHS criticism as Batley and Spen MP queries birth centre closure

Boris Johnson has dismissed criticism of the Government’s approach to the NHS as “frankly absurd” after Labour MP Kim Leadbeater highlighted concerns about the possible closure of the Brontë birth centre in Dewsbury.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 6:30 pm

Ms Leadbeater raised the case of the Brontë birth centre at Dewsbury and District Hospital which has been closed temporarily due to staffing issues – leading to a local campaign designed to prevent its potential permanent closure - at yesterday's Prime Minister’s Question Time in the Commons.

Similar birth centres in Huddersfield and Pontefract have closed in recent years and last month the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said a temporary closure in Dewsbury had been necessary due to being unable to maintain safe staffing levels as a result of vacancies and absences.

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Fears Dewsbury birth centre could close permanently due to staff shortages

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Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater

It has meant some expectant mothers being redirected to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield around 10 miles away.

David Melia, director of nursing and quality, said: “In this situation we will always talk through the other options available, which include the birth centre at Pinderfields Hospital, a home birth or, where appropriate, the obstetric led unit at Pinderfields Hospital.”

Ms Leadbeater told Parliament yesterday: “Despite the Prime Minister’s promises of new hospitals and more doctors and nurses, the Brontë birth centre at my local hospital in Batley and Spen is temporarily shut and is at risk of permanent closure due to staff shortages and lack of resources.

“The reality on the ground is that after 12 years of Conservative mismanagement, the NHS is broken.

“Can the Prime Minister explain to expectant parents in my constituency why, despite his promises, they are now forced to travel miles to give birth, and why his Government voted against the effective long-term workforce plan for the NHS proposed by his right Honourable Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt)?”

Mr Johnson said he would seek more information about the issue but went on to criticise Labour. He said: “I will certainly look into what has happened at the centre in Batley and Spen that the Honourable Lady mentions.

“What I can tell her, though, is that across the country we are investing massively in staff, in premises, in technology and in diagnostic centres.

“For Opposition Members to carp and criticise is frankly absurd, because they voted against the health and care levy that is putting billions into our NHS. They need to sort out their position: either they support it or they do not.”

The exchange followed Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accusing Mr Johnson of being “utterly unable” to improve the NHS, warning: “24 Hours in A&E used to be a TV programme, now it’s his policy.”

After Sir Keir highlighted unhappiness among patients with GP services, he said: “The Prime Minister’s ‘big plan’ act is so tired that even once-loyal MPs don’t believe him, and it’s not just waiting for a GP – it’s waiting for all NHS treatment.”

Mr Johnson defended the Government’s record on the NHS and said Sir Keir’s “line of attack is not working”.

Mr Johnson said: “We’ve not only raised the standard in the NHS, we’re not only reducing waiting times for those who have had to wait the longest, but what we’re doing more fundamentally is what the people of this country can see is simple common-sense and that’s using our economic strength to invest in doctors and nurses, and get people on the ward, giving people their scans, screens and tests in a more timely manner.”

“We are making colossal investments in our NHS, we’re cutting waiting times, we’re raising standards, we’re paying nurses more, we’re supporting our fantastic NHS.”