Stevenage hospital’s CQC rating has stagnated because the NHS is “spending money in all the wrong places”, the shadow health secretary has warned.

Speaking on a visit to the Hertfordshire town, Labour MP Wes Streeting pledged to clamp down on layers upon layers of managers to refocus NHS efforts on providing care.

In a report by the healthcare regulator published on November 3, Care Quality Commission inspectors rated East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust (ENHT) an overall “requires improvement”.

The CQC also gave ENHT a “requires improvement” grade after a routine visit five years ago in 2018, and again to ENHT’s Lister Hospital after a site inspection in 2016.

“It’s scant reassurance, but the services here are under the same enormous pressures as services right across the country,” Mr Streeting said.

“What I saw at the Lister when I visited previously was really dedicated people slogging their guts out for patients – but there aren’t enough of them, they are working with outdated equipment and technology, and when I look at the NHS as a system as a whole, it’s spending money in all the wrong places and wasting money in the process.

“For example, because people can’t get a GP appointment, they end up in A&E which is worse for them but also more expensive.

“If we had more GPs and better primary care, we can stop people from going to A&E in the first place.”

According to The King’s Fund, a nine-minute GP appointment costs the NHS roughly £42.

A visit to accident and emergency is typically between £86 and £418.

Mr Streeting also pledged to “shift the NHS from being an analogue service to a digital service”.

He said: “If we deal with some of the underlying health issues in our society, stop junk food being marketed at kids not just on telly but online, make sure we clamp down on vaping companies which are addicting a generation of kids to nicotine, make sure kids have better access to sport and leisure and recreation to tackle childhood obesity, we can reduce demand on the NHS and have people living healthier lives for longer.”

Mr Streeting also said that having multiple layers of management that "are ultimately about holding someone else to account rather than driving delivery" has "got to change".

He said money must go towards making sure “every part of the system is delivering for patients”.

Mr Streeting added: “There are enormous savings to be made and enormous benefits for patients if for example you have more national procurement to get better prices on technology and treatment.


“There are cutting-edge clinical trials taking place in this country.

“Frankly, you talk to anyone around Stevenage or right across the country, what people are telling us time and time again that their number one concern is the cost of living.

“People can’t afford more on their taxes,  so we need to get better value for the taxes that they’re paying.”

The Conservatives’ health chief has also pledged to pledged to “get more resources from the backroom to the front line”.

In a speech to his party’s national conference in October, Mr Streeting’s opposite number Steve Barclay said: “We’re taking immediate action to tackle challenges in the NHS and in Social Care – putting 800 new ambulances on the road, delivering 5,000 permanent hospital beds and creating 10,000 hospital-at-home places for patients to receive care in their own home.

“As a Conservative, what matters to me most is not inputs – it is the outcomes for patients.”

Mr Barclay added: “I also know that it can sometimes take too long to roll out new innovations nationally, even when they have been proven to work in local pilots."

He also announced the creation of a new £30-million fund to "speed up the adoption of tech in the NHS", which he said will "enable clinicians to adopt proven technology that can improve patient care".

The Comet asked Mr Streeting whether a Labour government would commit to building a radiotherapy treatment centre at Lister - a cause that Stevenage's MP, Stephen McPartland, has been championing since 2010.

Mr Streeting said: "I'm appalled that people are having to travel so far to get cancer treatment. One of the reasons why I think the local Tory MP has been unsuccessful is because under a Conservative government the NHS doesn't have the staff or technology it needs to treat patients on time and in the right place.

"I think it demonstrates that not only have you got an ineffective Conservative MP in Stevenage, you've got an ineffective Conservative government."

He pointed to Labour's pledges to increase the number of NHS staff and double the number of CT and MRI scanners.

"I suspect that if you ask NHS leaders locally why there isn't this service available at Lister, they would say people and technology. So I hope that a Labour government's policies would mean that the NHS can get people treated in the right time and in the right place, and I think people will have better luck getting the services they need at the Lister with a Labour MP and a Labour government."

Kevin Bonavia, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, added: "Clearly, locally there's a consensus among us that we need a radiotherapy facility at Lister, but as Wes has said, we've been waiting years for this.

"We need a change of government that's going to back us to get the resources we need locally."

Alex Clarkson, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, has said he would also campaign for the facility if elected.

Responding to this article, he said: "As someone who lives in Stevenage [constituency] myself, and whose family members have received cancer treatment at the Lister over the years, I am proud of the work Stephen McPartland has done alongside Sir Oliver Heald to make this radiotherapy unit a reality, with of course the support of the Comet newspaper.

"The new Integrated Care Board for Herts and West Essex is actively pursuing the satellite radiotherapy centre proposal; Stephen and Oliver have lobbied for funding and expect a positive response.

"The issue will then be where it should be sited - either at Stevenage or Luton. As the majority of affected patients are in our area, I pledge as both the prospective parliamentary candidate, and indeed if elected, I will lobby hard for the unit to be sited at Lister.

"We must also remember that the last time a Labour government and MP were responsible for the NHS in Stevenage they granted a contract to run an important treatment facility to a private firm which was incapable of providing the service or safeguarding patients.

"It was the Conservatives that had to spend £53 million to bail out Labour's mess.

"Only the Conservatives can be trusted to protect our local NHS."