Burnley MP Julie Cooper column: NHS in desperate need of vital investment
Brexit is the word on everyone's lips in Westminster and civil servants are working frantically to support the Prime Minister in her preparations for our withdrawal from the EU.
Six thousand extra Government officers have been recruited so far to work on this and senior staff from every Government Department have been drafted in to work on this. Inevitably this is causing a back log of work in several key areas.
Nevertheless work goes on in spite of Brexit. For my part I am very busy working in the Shadow Health Team on Labour’s plans for the NHS. There is widespread acknowledgement that both our NHS and social care services are in crisis.
Hospital waiting lists are at the highest level for 20 years, GP surgeries are facing unprecedented demand, there is a desperate shortage of NHS dentists, funding cuts mean social care for the elderly and disabled is insufficient, Community pharmacies are at risk of closure and every month twenty people go blind in England unnecessarily.
The list of service failures is endless and there is no doubt that if it were not for the extraordinary dedication of NHS staff the system would have collapsed. It is clear that things cannot go on like this.
Of course the system needs to be properly funded but money alone won’t sort all the problems. We need to provide the vital investment but we also need a comprehensive workforce strategy that fully utilises the skills of all health care professionals.
We also need joined up systems and I’m don’t just mean IT systems here, although they are important. We need a patient centred service whereby services fit around patients and not the other way round. Understanding the challenges is the first step to fixing the problems.
This week I’ve met with dentists, ophthalmologists, GPS and Community Pharmacists. Because unlike the Government I do think that it is important to listen to experts before deciding policy.
On Thursday I went to Sheffield to see for myself an excellent initiative where GPs and Community Pharmacists are working as one unit together with district nurses and hospital discharge teams.
As a result of their innovative approach there have been fewer hospital admissions, easier access to services and most importantly better patient health outcomes. If similar systems were rolled out across the country it is possible to free up 11 million GP appointments and thousands of hospital beds.
On Wednesday I met with senior consultant neurologists who specialise in researching improved treatments and care for sufferers of motor neurone disease.
I was really pleased to hear of some of the groundbreaking work carried out in the UK and delighted to hear that we are world leaders in this research.
I was though saddened to learn that in the UK we are desperately short of neurologists compared to other countries. Investing in British talent and the NHS staff is an absolute ‘no brainier’.
The changing demographic means that we must continue to adapt our health services, and research into cures and treatments, is a vital part of this process. Some of the recent Government funding cuts have reduced provision.
This is extremely shortsighted and will lead to greater costs down the line. I really wish that someone in Government was capable of making a distinction between spending and investment.
On Friday I was pleased to meet with mangers and senior staff at The Halifax in Burnley to discuss their plans to support both first time buyers and business start ups. I was also interested to hear of their commitment to protect their customers from fraud. It is a sad fact that some criminals will target elderly and vulnerable people and some of these individuals are very plausible.
For all of us it is best to take time to check the organisation/individuals’s credentials and never to part with cash in a hurry. When dealing online it is important never to share passwords and look out for bogus emails pretending to be from well known companies. If in doubt don’t part with the cash and don’t click on that email link.
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My constituency office is open to the public from 10am - 4pm weekdays (half days on Tuesday) where my staff will do their very best to help you and pass on to me the issues which you raise.