View from the house: ‘Extraordinary’ NHS always there for me


- Credit: Archant

I had the very great pleasure, last weekend, of joining my predecessor Frank Dobson, council leader Georgia Gould and many others in a triple NHS celebration: 70 years of the NHS, 20 years of the Caversham Health Centre in Kentish Town, and two years of the “listening space” outside the centre.

I attended as the local MP, but also, with my family, as a user of the Caversham Centre.

We all remarked on what an incredible service the NHS delivers despite the very many challenges and took the opportunity to look both backwards and forwards.

Looking back, like many of you I have seen the NHS from the inside for decades.

It was there for my family when my mum was very ill. It was there for my family when my children were born. And it was there for me most recently when I damaged my knee playing football!

It is an institution that touches all of us.

We should be immensely proud of its achievements and the extraordinary work of the thousands of staff who work in it day-in, day-out.

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But, as we approach the 70th anniversary of the NHS, we must be realistic about the significant challenges it faces.

People are waiting longer in A&E. The number of people stuck on hospital waiting lists is growing.

And the number of people waiting more than two weeks for essential cancer tests has increased dramatically.

A lot of these challenges are a direct result of the funding cuts the NHS has faced over the last eight years.

But, it’s more than that just about the money.

Our health needs are more complicated than they were seventy years ago, treatments are more expensive, and the number of people living to eighty and beyond has increased dramatically.

If we want the NHS to be there for us in another seventy years then we must be prepared for it to change.

We need a health service that can properly work with a social care system.

We must invest more in early intervention to improve public health and tackle growing health inequalities. We need to do much more to improve mental health provision.

And we must make sure we have the staff and workforce to care for us and to care for our loved ones. Crucially, this means making sure we have a future relationship with the European Union that gives us access to the doctors and nurses who can work for our NHS.

Brexit consumes a lot of political time and energy – and a lot of my efforts too!

But while the government grapples with the technicalities Brexit we cannot give up or forget about the wider changes that must happen in our country.

At the forefront of the change Britain needs must be the vision to rebuild our NHS to face the challenges of the future.

It is a task this government has so far been singularly unable to meet, but it’s an argument we must continue to make.