The NHS is one of our greatest achievements but it’s struggling under the coalition government which has wasted billions on an unnecessary top-down reorganisation.
One of the issues that local people regularly talk to me about is their struggle to see a GP, particularly in Saddleworth. The nurses and doctors that serve our area do a great job but under the coalition one in four people are now waiting a week or more for a GP appointment. Our nurses and doctors know better than anyone the pressures our NHS is under and we need to do more to support them.
As PPS to Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham MP, I regularly meet with representatives from the Royal Colleges, patient’s organisations, NHS Trusts and the health think tanks. There is widespread concern amongst them all that the NHS is under great strain, despite the efforts of staff to mitigate the worst effects for patients.
That’s why Ed Miliband last week announced that the next Labour government will create a £2.5 billion a year NHS Time to Care Fund to save and transform our health service.
This will support 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more home care workers and 3,000 more midwives by 2020. 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.
Importantly, the next Labour government will balance the books by the end of the next Parliament so the Time to Care Fund will not be paid for through more borrowing or by raising taxes on everyday working people.
Instead, the money will be raised from a tax on houses worth over £2 million, a co-ordinated crackdown against tax avoidance, and by ensuring tobacco companies contribute towards the costs they impose on the NHS.
We need a world-class health and care service that is equipped to address the modern challenges that come from an ageing population, more people living with chronic conditions, the rise of mental health, and a higher premium on preventing illness.
The NHS is going backwards under this government, so there has never been a better or more important time to care about its future. I am determined to protect the NHS and with the Time to Care Fund, we’ll ensure we have a health service fit for the 21st century.