Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): My speech will be in two halves. I shall talk first about health care issues, as this is a health debate.
I welcome the Care Bill, particularly its commitment to social care. I feel that words such as “compassion” are sometimes missing from our discussions on health care. Before I say more, let me welcome publicly, for the first time, the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) to her position as head of a review body that will examine NHS complaints.
As many Members know, I was a nurse in a former life, and it was a profession that I absolutely loved. I was, I think, a committed nurse. I lived in a nursing home, and often worked for more hours than I was supposed to. I would go into the hospital on my days off to visit patients who had no relatives. I was not alone in that; most of the nurses in my nursing home behaved in the same manner. I pay tribute to a nurse who started work on the same day as me, on 5 November 1975: Helen Windsor, who contacted me recently. For all these years, she has been delivering the same committed care that she delivered in 1975.
I suppose many people will say that that was a long time ago, and it was, but I think that qualities such as compassion, kindness and caring are timeless. It does not matter when they were being delivered; they should be delivered in the same way today. Unfortunately, however, I—like many other Members—regularly receive complaints from constituents about the standard of nursing care. I mentioned Helen Windsor because I want to pay tribute to the nurses who do deliver good care.
I recently visited a constituent in hospital, an 89-year-old man with no relatives. It was interesting that the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley mentioned nail clippings, because I had already written down that I intended to raise the subject. That constituent was agitated because his nails were serrated and were catching on the cardigan that he was wearing as he sat in his chair. When I asked the nurse whether she could cut his nails—he said that he had been asking for it to be done himself—she replied “No, I can’t. We are not allowed to do that.” So I took an emery board out of my handbag and filed his nails myself. I know that sometimes, as Members of Parliament, we feel that we are social workers, but I had never imagined that I would extend my role to the nail care and general hand hygiene of a constituent in hospital—but I did.
Unfortunately, on a number of occasions recently I have sat in a hospital and witnessed nursing care being delivered to my own daughter. Only a few weeks ago, when she was on a hospital trolley waiting to go into the operating theatre—distressed, anxious, upset—we witnessed nurses holding conversations over her head about intimate details of their love lives and their social lives, which, while she was in pain, my daughter had no interest in hearing. Not only was she subjected to those intimate details of their private lives; she was also subjected to a lack of care. She was completely ignored on that trolley. Yes, she was about to go into an operating theatre and be dealt with, but it is when patients are in that condition that they need nursing care most. They need to be reassured. They need to be calm. They need to know that everything is going to be OK. However, there was no interest in that.
The most appalling thing that happened was that, just before my daughter went into the operating theatre, one nurse told the other that she was going to the bathroom, and then gave exact details of what she was going to do there. I cannot think of a more polite way of putting it in the Chamber. It was a totally inappropriate conversation to be having outside the doors of an operating theatre.
A constituent who recently came to see me in my surgery told me that, when in hospital following a road traffic accident, she had noticed after a few days that her bottom sheet had not been changed and was bloodstained. Each day she wrote the date around the border of the bloodstains. When she left hospital 10 days later, she left that bottom sheet for the nurses to see, with the dates written in a pattern around the bloodstains. During those 10 days, no sheets had been changed. We used to change the sheets every day, and that was possibly excessive, but I think that, given that we are constantly trying to find ways in which to deal with, beat and get on top of hospital-acquired infections, bloodstained sheets indicate a lack of care.
I do not want to labour the point about complaints, because I know that a number of other people have already done so, and I feel that it is now the remit of the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley. Rather, I want to discuss immigration and its impact. We send £53 million per day to Europe, which limits our dealings with the rest of the world—in fact, the Prime Minister is trying to tackle that issue today. Labour will not commit to a referendum. Do Labour Members not see that that £53 million a day could be spent on dementia care, on Alzheimer’s care, on young carers? There are so many things we could do with that money.
People were asked one question when we went into the Common Market: do you want to go in, yes or no? They should be asked the same question to exit. If we can go to the electorate on behalf of the Liberal Democrats with a referendum on the alternative vote in a matter of months, why do we have to wait years to offer them a referendum on an issue as big as the European Union? Do we not realise what a self-serving, self-interested bunch we seem to people out there, when we can call an expensive national referendum on AV, yet obfuscate and delay on the question of European Union membership?
It is no good saying that people are not interested in this issue, because they are: it is the subject of almost every other question I am asked when I go out in my constituency. People now know exactly how much we are spending on the European Union, and they do not believe that leaving will cost us 3 million jobs. They would like a piece of the action in China, which reported growth of some 9.5% in the past year. They want some of the action taking place in the BRIC countries. That is where they want to trade—not in a sick and failing Europe that is getting sicker by the day.
I want to add my voice to those who have spoken out on this issue, and I would definitely join the two Cabinet Ministers in voting to be out. I would vote no tomorrow, and I know many of my constituents would. I completely support the measures in the health Bill in the Queen’s Speech, which will be well received by everybody, but I want to add my voice to the case for an in/out referendum. We must find a way to deliver that. We know that the Prime Minister means what he says; but if we can do it on AV, we have to do it on the EU: otherwise, people will not believe us.