Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 19 May 2011

When a loved one is ill, we all want the same thing: access to free, professional care that will make them better. We often say that nothing is as important as our health but we only really mean it when illness or accident strikes. It is then that we all need the best possible National Health Service.  Over the years my family have come to rely on the local NHS like most of my 70,000 constituents.
Since 1948 demand for health services has risen by 4% per annum in the UK, and of course with people living ever longer this annual demand is still increasing. The challenge for government is to design a framework for the delivery of this care that is the most effective possible and that can cope with anticipated future demands.  Nothing in our country has stood still in the past 60 years, so why should the much-loved NHS. The argument is not about whether it needs to change, but how best to change it. I get letters and e-mails each month where treatment has gone wrong, but I also get plenty of correspondence praising the excellent service that we get locally.
I broadly support the changes included in the Health and Social Care Bill. This provides for all hospitals to become foundation hospitals, a reform started by the last government. This gives more authority to the people on the ground rather than Whitehall. The Bill increases competition in the NHS. There is already competition and this has the effect of giving more choice and driving up standards. The Bill, controversially, scraps Primary Care Trusts and gives the decision on commissioning (i.e. what health services to buy in for that area.) to GPs. I also support this because decisions on medical priorities should be taken by doctors and nurses and not bureaucrats.
The recent decision by the Prime Minister to put these reforms on hold while we take stock of people's objections was nonetheless wise. This is our NHS, a cherished institution, and the pause is welcome.  Once decisions are finalised, it is important that we better inform people of the reasons for change, and take the majority with us.
We do not want to reform the NHS because we do not care for it, but because we value it so much. If we do not put in place modern and effective structures it may not be there for us when we need it.

posted by Gary @ 11:48