Last week during the short Parliamentary recess I visited the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. I was impressed with the peaceful situation, booming economy, social, health and infrastructure development.
Twenty years ago the Kurds had to flee from Saddam Hussein into the mountains and to Turkey. The democratic Kurdish Regional Government are proud of those in Britain who helped their liberation. Today they host 250,000 refugees fleeing from another brutal Baathist, Bashar Assad and the civil war in Syria.
I saw the Domiz refugee camp where 75,000 including 13,000 children live in densely packed crowded temporary shelters with no prospect of an early return home. Despite the welcome agreement to remove chemical weapons, over 120,000 have died and 7 million Syrians forced from their homes, including 4 million into neighbouring countries with little prospect of an early ceasefire or political solution.
Here at home, Accident and Emergency is in crisis even before the winter has started. Average waiting times nationally are up to over two and a half hours, there is a shortage of senior A&E doctors and too few nurses and reports of 12,000 patients spending 12 hours or more on trolleys in A&E. Queens and King George are amongst the worst performing hospitals in the country. The coalition Government attempted to avoid presenting Sir Bruce Keogh’s report on urgent and emergency care to Parliament and are trying to abdicate all responsibility for the crisis in the NHS. The reality is that our A&Es are going into the winter with too few nurses, doctors and beds. Under this Government it is harder to get a GP appointment, NHS walk-in centres have closed and NHS Direct has been scrapped, leaving people with no alternative but to go to A&E.