Friday 4 July 2008

NHS Celebrates Sixtieth Anniversary Of Universal Healthcare In the UK

The NHS is marking its sixtieth anniversary tomorrow. Looking across the Atlantic and seeing that provision of universal healthcare is a key campaign issue in the 2008 US election gives an indication of the scale of Attlee's Labour government’s success in setting up our National Heath Service in 1948.

Today, 99.5% of patients are treated within 1 month from diagnosis to treatment for all cancers. This being the significant factor that's contributed to achieving the UK’s best ever cancer survival rates. Compare that to before Labour’s election in 1997. Then people were waiting over two years for cancer treatment. There have been similar successes with heart disease too. In fact, since 1997, investment in the NHS has trebled to £100 billion. That means 38,000 more doctors, 80,000 more nurses, over a hundred new hospitals, new community health centres and the shortest waiting times since records began.

So, where do the Tories stand? Waiting list played an important role in the last Conservative Government’s economic management of our healthcare. By making people wait longer they encouraged those that could pay to do so. It was privatisation by the back door. The front door being well and truly bolted by the deep affection the public have for the NHS. Wary of being out-of-touch; Cameron’s Conservatives confine themselves to pointing out what’s wrong with the service in an effort to damage its standing. Indeed, prior to the 2005 general election the Conservatives ran a scare story that Charing Cross Hospital would close – a falsehood for which they have never apologised. Now, they are similarly claiming that ‘polyclinics’ (the new health centres) will destroy GP services. All this designed to sow doubt and raise concerns. Actually, it is current Conservative Party policy to scrap extended GP opening hours and to halt the government’s extra investment in new health centres. How could they possibly oppose longer opening hours, more modern equipment, better access and new surgeries? Quite simply, it’s because the Conservatives have never signed up to the concept of universal healthcare.

On the 30th June, Lord Darzi, the Heath Minister, published High Quality Care for All. It sets out how the heath service will improve to meet new challenges over the coming years. You can read a summary here or view the full publication on the Department of Health website here.

The plan sets out how Labour will:

  • Give patients greater influence over the services they use by guaranteeing choice and access to the most clinically and cost effective drugs and treatments.
  • Make healthcare more personal by ensuring that everyone with a long-term condition has their own personalised care plan and by piloting personal health budgets.
  • Create an NHS that helps people to stay healthy by rolling out a new national programme of vascular risk assessment for people aged between 40 and 74, and rewarding family doctors for focusing on prevention and early intervention.
  • Raise the standards on quality within the NHS by systematically measuring and publishing information about the quality of care from the frontline up.
  • Foster a pioneering NHS by introducing new funds and incentives to support and reward innovation, and developing new best practice tariffs targeted on areas for improvement.
  • Empower frontline staff by enabling them to lead and manage their organisations and improving the quality of NHS education and training.

Local MP, Andy Slaughter (Lab) is carrying out a survey of people’s views on our local health service and you can click here if you’d like to take part.

Meanwhile, I for one would like to thank all those that work to make our National Heath Service the envy of much of the world. I wish it a very happy 60th birthday and look forward to many more to come.

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