In the week when Robert Francis' report on the appalling catalogue of neglect at Stafford Hospital was published, the future of the National Health Service and our own much cherished hospital in Grantham are rightly at the front of people's minds. Twenty years ago Grantham Hospital suffered its own dark days at the brutal hands of Beverley Allitt - and it took a long time for it to recover from that awful episode.
In more recent years, the Hospital has faced the threat of substantial cuts in services - and even the possibility of closure. But the people of Grantham organised a powerful campaign with the strong support of the Grantham Journal and managed to fight it off. We are in a much better place now. The consultation document Shaping Health for Mid-Kesteven sees Grantham Hospital retaining its Accident and Emergency Centre and acute medical facilities and developing as a centre for planned surgery to meet the needs of our ageing population. It also proposes the creation of an integrated children's service to provide a one-stop shop for the most vulnerable children with complex needs.
I believe that most local people will understand why the midwife-led birthing unit cannot be sustained when these days almost all mums want to have their babies in a hospital with the consultants and equipment that might be needed in an emergency. What matters most is that Grantham Hospital continues to provide high quality ante and post-natal care - and, as the Conservative county councillors are recommending, that the local health service invests more money in supporting the travel costs of families who now have to travel into Lincoln to have their babies.
I am sure that some readers will have concerns about the proposals for the future of Grantham Hospital and I would be very happy to meet with anyone who does at one of my regular surgeries. But I believe that, here in Grantham, we can be proud of a hospital whose doctors, nurses, managers and administrative staff put patients first and where the local NHS wants to invest in new services to meet the changing needs of our community.