The quality of care provided by Airedale staff impressed the shadow health secretary during a visit to the hospital with Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Ilkley.
Andy Burnham MP toured Airedale NHS Foundation Trust alongside the Labour parliamentary candidate for Keighley and Ilkley, John Grogan.
They saw the hospital’s temporary accident and emergency unit – in action while a new emergency department is constructed – and visited Airedale’s Telemedicine Hub.
The telemedicine secure video link facility, which Mr Burnham described as “brilliant”, allows patients to receive treatment from Airedale without actually having to go to the hospital.
Mr Burnham added: “This is a model service and a glimpse of the future. I think it can be used more widely, as a lot of older people end up in hospital when they don’t really need to be there.
“It’s probably more cost effective too, and if it relieves pressure on the hospital and saves money, then it’s a winner.”
Commenting on his visit to the temporary A&E, he said: “The staff there are doing an outstanding job in difficult circumstances.
“I find it hard to believe that the Government hasn’t honoured a one per cent pay rise for nurses, given the lengths that these staff go to keep the NHS going.”
Responding to a recent Airedale staff survey, which found employees were proud to work at the hospital but were coping with heavy workloads, he said: “We’re probably asking too much from hospital staff.
“Cuts are being made to general practices, community services, mental health services and social care. Combined, these cuts all place hospitals under increased pressure.
“People should only end up in hospital as a last resort and as other things are taken away I worry about NHS hospitals having too much to do.
“I want to fully integrate health and social care, so the NHS can think much more about looking after people in their own homes. It’s a long-term strategy, it won’t happen overnight, but it’s where we have to go.
“We can’t expect hospitals to absorb all these pressures and never get anything wrong.”
Mr Grogan said: “Airedale Hospital is the institution that unites the entire constituency. With 3,000 staff it’s the biggest employer in the constituency, and if I was to get elected it would be my number one priority.
“I do feel the staff here are under pressure as never before, but they are doing their best to maintain standards.
“If I was elected I would want to be on their side and to help make those pressures manageable.”