Labour has a plan to revive our broken NHS
This month marks the 75th anniversary of the National Health Service. The NHS is an incredible service, providing support at every milestone in our lives; from when we are born, until we die. But right now it isn’t working, with record waiting times, vacancies and delays.
People in my local communities of Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale, and across the United Kingdom are finding it impossible to get a GP appointment, an operation or even an ambulance when they need one. Almost every part of the NHS has been on strike this year, and there are capacity issues and staff shortages everywhere you look.
Waiting lists were already at record highs before the pandemic and the 18-week standard has still not been met since 2016. A shocking 7.4 million people are currently waiting for planned treatment, and there are now 350,000 more people waiting for treatment in England than when the Prime Minister first took office.
Doctors and nurses work incredibly hard to care for others, but there simply aren’t enough of them
I was a community nurse for 25 years and went back into the NHS during the pandemic. I know that doctors and nurses work incredibly hard to care for others, but there simply aren’t enough of them and staff shortages mean they often must work long hours, doing the work of three or four people.
We are also seeing a crisis in mental health, with many hospital beds across the country being taken up by people who should have had access to services much, much earlier. I am a lay manager at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, and I can see just how important it is that people are treated as soon as they report mental ill-health. For families, this can be especially worrying, with a quarter of a million children in the UK with mental ill-health being denied the help they need and young people facing terrible waiting times for urgent mental health care.
It is incredibly important that we recognise the pressure that primary care is under. We urgently need a National Care Service. Patients are struggling to access primary care, with hundreds of thousands waiting more than a month to get a GP appointment. Health is often a postcode lottery, with a 20-year gap in healthy life expectancy between those who live in the most deprived parts of the country compared with those who live in the least.
With 165,000 vacancies in social care, recruitment and retention is seriously underfunded and we have shortages of staff across the board. People are spending all their life savings on care and if they can’t afford it, are relying on unpaid and overworked carers to fill the gaps. In both social care and mental health provision, there is a real problem in A&E beds being filled by people whose needs aren’t being met and can’t be discharged. Our NHS is broken and needs urgent care.
But Labour has a plan to build an NHS fit for the future, by doubling the number of district nurses qualifying every year, training 5,000 new health visitors, creating an additional 10,000 nursing and midwifery places and guaranteeing mental health treatment within a month, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status.
It is important that going forward that the NHS makes some tough decisions. We must reconsider where funding is currently going and take a whole-system approach to the future development of care. We need to look at how we can use Integrated Care Boards to redirect resources to support areas that are currently in crisis. We also need to have a greater focus on a preventative model of care, ensuring that we can identify threats to public health and diagnose them before they become overwhelming.
The NHS has had 75 turbulent years, supporting us from post-war Britain to post pandemic and everything in between. It is our job to ensure it survives the next 75 years.
Paulette Hamilton, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington and former nurse
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