A number of residents have contacted me about the National Health Service, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary. They are worried about protecting the values of the NHS, its long term funding and the role of the private sector in the NHS. Here are my views:
I am committed to upholding the NHS's founding principles as a universal healthcare system provided free at the point of use: a comprehensive, integrated and public NHS that is there for all of us when we need it.
Most estimates put spending on private health providers delivering NHS services at around 7%. When we see this figure, it is important to recognise that the NHS spending on GP services, dentists, opticians etc. is for services delivered by private providers. Nearly every GP practice is a small business contracting with the NHS, which has been the case since Nye Bevan set it up in 1948.
So I am glad that none of the Accountable Care Organisations (the collective of local providers who have to deliver the NHS five year plans) are led by any private organisations. They are led by the public sector bodies, as it is in Doncaster.
I support this partnership approach. At the general election, Labour reaffirmed our belief in providing universal care, ending fragmentation and moving towards genuine integration, planning and partnership, publicly administered and provided.
Eight years of cuts, unnecessary reorganisation and the biggest financial squeeze in its history have pushed our health service to the brink. Last winter was the worst on record: waiting lists topped four million, more than 84,000 patients had their operation cancelled on the day and 2.8 million people waited more than four hours in A&E.
The Government's recently announced that it will increase expenditure on the NHS by an average of 3.4% annually over the next five years. It may represent more than the Vote Leave pledge of £350 million per week; but it is less than health experts have been calling for. The Labour Government (1997-2010) increased funding on average by 5.6% every year of office. The Government's new money does not include any extra funding for social care, capital spending or public health.
I have also challenged the Government to commit to fully fund the NHS pay increases now the cap has been scrapped. See my intervention this week HERE.
I hope you agree that a well-run, improving NHS is about more than money. The NHS must provide a range of treatments undreamt of by Nye Bevan; to a population living a third longer. Challenges that demand improvement. We must have better public health – helping people to look after themselves better, for longer; we need to change our community-based mental health services; we need to fully use technology to reduce missed appointments; and the NHS needs to use land and buildings better or sell them for another use to save the taxpayer. The NHS exists to deliver a service, not manage vacant lots. It does not exist to sell non-health services elsewhere, which is why I oppose the growth of Wholly-Owned Subsidiaries.
I will continue to press the Government to bring forward a long-term plan for the NHS and social care sector – and for them to adopt a cross party approach to this - and ensure that the NHS remains free at the point of use and accessible to all.
You can read my speech at the NHS 70th Birthday parade in Edlington;
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue.