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, 8 September 2016


What are we going to do about our NHS? To say that it is creaking at the seams is an understatement. All over the country GP services and acute hospitals are under pressure, nowhere more than locally. This is despite us having more doctors and carrying out more operations than ever before in our history.

We are already spending record amounts on the NHS - £143 billion this year (compared to about £85 billion on schools and education) which is roughly 10% or our GDP. Massive sums. On top of all this, the government has promised an extra £10 billion over the lifetime of this Parliament. And yet…the pressure is not diminishing, queues in some services are lengthening and some hospitals have closed their lists while they catch up with a back log. It clearly needs another large injection of cash, but where is that money coming from?

I have been trotting up to Derriford for 25 years receiving briefings about the challenges that hospital faces. It has always been under pressure, but this is as challenging as I have ever known it.

There are arguments about structures and policy but the heart of the problem appears to be our dramatic demographic changes – where so many of us are living longer and therefore making more demands on our health system. We are the victim of our own success. At the other end of the scale, we have made little inroads into some public health issues like smoking and obesity, which trigger so much disease.

Some people talk absurdly about creeping privatisation, but the facts simply do not support this. At the end of 13 years of Labour government 5 % of NHS services were delivered by private companies. Six years into a Conservative led government this has crept up to 6.5%. Wow!

The model we have is now 70 years old and constructed in very different times just after the Second World War. We Brits love our NHS and rightly so. It is a liberating thing to hand over your sick child or mother to a doctor, knowing that unlike the USA, he or she will be treated, usually excellently, irrespective of cost.

Politicians of all parties are committed to an NHS free at the point of use, publically funded. But is this sustainable any longer? Has the time come to examine other models?

Is it time for a grown up debate about the future of our NHS.

posted by Gary @ 08:59