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Where I stand on the Situation in our Health Service

May 14, 2017 9:49 PM
By Martyn Pennington

NHS LogoMost of us rely heavily on the NHS for health care. Yet the system is collapsing. Because of inadequate funding and mismanagement, doctors are packing up, junior doctors are still in conflict with the Government over their new contract, nurses are overstretched (40,000 nursing positions can't be filled), and waiting times for even basic GP appointments get longer and longer. The NHS is certainly not safe in the Tories' hands. NHS hospitals and surgeries will close under the Conservatives because they are starved of funds. Even Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, was surprised he was still in his job after the last re-shuffle.

Let's start with the causes of poor health, remembering that the percentage of those in poor or very poor health is 50% higher in Thanet than in the rest of Kent. What is the Government doing about air pollution? Trying not to publish a challenging report. What is the Government doing about child obesity? Caving in to the soft drinks makers. How does the Government tackle the problem of suicide amongst young men? By diverting £180 million for mental health to other things. Cal this strong leadership? I don't think so.

When the Government launched an exercise to review how health services are delivered in each area, snappily called 'Sustainability and Transformation Plans', some people hoped this was a pathway to a genuine reform of the health service which would make it much more responsive to people's needs. Instead, it has become a crude way of cutting funding.

The "East Kent Sustainability and Transformation Plan" for this area uses a rich vocabulary of consultant's language, and identifies within Thanet four 'localities', namely Ramsgate (population 51 000), Broadstairs (20 000), Margate (42 000) and 'Quex' (30 000). It then envisages that, under 'locality commissioning priorities', each locality will become a provider of integrated out-of- hospital care. What this means to you and me is the closure of the surgery in Westgate together with others in the area, and the building of a common surgery outside Birchington, to save money. This will be a disaster for those elderly people who can currently get to appointments at the surgery on their mobility scooters, but who would need taxis to get to 'Quex' - and there are very few taxis that can accommodate a wheelchair. There is very little thought given to providing you and me with better care, on the doorstep.

The real question is - which party is prepared to take the tough action needed to guarantee the future of the NHS? Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to this; we have promised an extra £12 million for Thanet, of which £3 million will go to mental health. We will scrap the current STP exercise and start again to make sure the reform is based on patients' needs, not funding cuts. We will introduce an independent body to make sure that all governments treat the NHS fairly. The NHS will be safe - and better - in our hands