The National Health Service was the greatest political achievement of the last century. It is rightly revered the world over. But, as is well-documented, it’s now not so much just creaking at the seams as struggling to survive.
Lincoln Labour have been going out talking to residents every week for months and months now and one recurrent issue is the time it takes to get a GP appointment. The nurses and doctors that serve our area do an undeniably excellent job but under the current government one in four people now wait a week or more for a GP appointment.
One in two nurses say that wards are understaffed. Waiting lists are the highest they’ve been in years. Local healthcare staff know better than anyone the pressures our NHS is under and we need to do more to support them.
If one of my children was ill or if one of my parents had been injured, I’d want to know that they will be seen and treated as soon as possible. The same goes for everyone in Lincoln.
At the Labour Conference here in Manchester yesterday, Ed Miliband announced that the next Labour government will create a £2.5 billion a year NHS ‘Time to Care Fund’ to save and transform the health service.
Labour will support 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more careworkers and 3,000 more midwives. By appointing these additional staff, our doctors and nurses will have the time they need to care properly for patients, as well as transforming services in communities and at home.
It’s incredibly important that people know that the next Labour government is committed to eliminating the deficit and that we will balance the books by the end of the next Parliament. That’s why the Time to Care Fund will not be paid for through more borrowing or by raising taxes on ordinary working people. Instead, the money will be raised from a tax on houses worth over £2 million, a coordinated crackdown on tax avoidance, and by ensuring tobacco companies contribute towards the costs they impose on the NHS.
The Conservative government haven’t just destabilised our health service with an expensive and entirely wasteful reorganisation; they’re holding it back from meeting the challenges of the 21st century: the challenges that come from an ageing population, more people living with chronic conditions, the increasing need for mental health provision, and a higher premium on preventing illness.
At present, the NHS is going backwards. Patient care has taken a backseat as our NHS becomes downgraded, fragmented and privatised. We can only take the NHS forwards into the 21st century if we are willing to fund it adequately and to restore its founding principles of care and community service.