Thursday, 4 July 2013

Let’s celebrate the NHS’s 65th birthday and protect it for future generations

The NHS was founded sixty-five years ago by a Labour Government that recognised Britain needed a health service that was available to everyone according to their need and regardless of their ability to pay.

The NHS today is suffering from an A&E crisis which is why I am asking  people in Haslingden and Hyndburn to visit and join Labour’s campaign calling on David Cameron to keep his promise to protect our health service.

The NHS remains an incredible institution to this day and is rightfully one of Britain’s, and Labour’s, proudest achievements. But the NHS today is suffering from an A&E crisis that proves the Tories can’t be trusted with our health service.

Rather than focussing on the frontline, David Cameron is spending £3billion of taxpayers' money on an unnecessary, unwanted top-down reorganisation of the NHS that nobody voted for and that he promised wouldn't happen. We’ve also lost 4,000 nurses, seen ambulance queues double and now A&E waiting times are at a nine-year high.

Staffing shortages across the NHS have left A&E departments overstretched with experts warning that services across the country could fail by the winter if urgent action isn’t taken. The North West area has lost 1,119 nurses since the Tories took over, making it harder to maintain the services that local people in Haslingden and Hyndburn rely on.

Instead of supporting our NHS staff, David Cameron keeps blaming GPs, nurses and everyone else while refusing to take responsibility for the crisis this Tory-led Government has created. It isn’t fair to simply blame frontline NHS staff who work so hard when we need it most.

But the A&E crisis has also been caused by the Tories’ devastating cuts to elderly care. Fewer older people are getting the care they need at home, meaning more have to be admitted to hospital and more get stuck in hospital beds at the end of their treatment. And with hospital beds not being freed up, the pressure backs up through A&E, which can't then admit new patients to the ward.

To protect the NHS from the immediate crisis, Labour would use the ‘underspends’ in the NHS budget to put an extra billion pounds into social care over each of the next two years. This extra investment comes from the money the Chancellor could have spent on the NHS but chose not to and would relieve the pressure on A&Es as well as helping more elderly people stay healthy and independent in their own homes.

We also need to safeguard the NHS for the future. Labour has put forward bold proposals for a genuinely integrated NHS and social care system, bringing together physical health, mental health and social care into a single service to meet all of our care needs.

Labour created the NHS in 1948, and it is one of our proudest achievements. Its 65th birthday is an opportunity to celebrate, but if we’re going to commemorate future milestones then we need to make sure our NHS is strengthened and protected.