Of all the issues that the people I represent have contacted me about most frequently since I became a South London MP in 2010 – save for the difficult economic climate – has been the NHS.
Many of us remember the shortage of beds and the decline the NHS suffered in the 1990’s under the last Conservative led government. It was one of the reasons why people in South London helped to elect the Labour Party in 1997 – the Party that created the NHS. When the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats told people, in 2010, that this was in the past and they could now be trusted with the NHS, and when David Cameron said there would be no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS, most people believed that to be true.
Few people imagined that just two years later the NHS would be facing one of its biggest ever challenges – less still that the challenge would be one of the Government’s own creation. Few thought that either Party in Government, the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives, would force through the biggest reorganisation of the NHS since its creation, nor that they would ask NHS organisations to hold back £3.5 billion to pay for it.
The reorganisation has inflicted chaos on the NHS, compounded by the LibDem/Conservative decision to cut NHS funding by three quarters of a billion pounds in their first year. Now people are waiting longer for important operations and in A&E. Wards are closing and 6,000 nurses are being cut. Despite opposition from Doctors, Nurses, other health staff and patient groups, the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties are still pressing ahead with their reforms. The LibDem/Conservative Government has compounded its mistakes on the NHS by cutting more than £1 billion from adult social care. There is still not enough action on mental health.
I recently visited Streatham Ambulance Station, and had a chance to talk with NHS staff there about the impact the LibDem/Conservative reorganisation was having. After my visit, a great many people got in contact with me about the excellent care and treatment they received from the service. In my view, we owe a debt of gratitude to those in our local Ambulance Service, and throughout the NHS, who work tirelessly to help us when we are in our greatest need. Now the Government responsible for the NHS is failing both them and the service the NHS provides.
Of course, the NHS in our country is not perfect, does need reform and people do experience serious problems that need to be solved. In my view, this can only be done when the attention of Ministers and NHS staff is focused on doing their job and improving the service – not on satisfying the whims of Ministers who refuse to listen to the public and to NHS staff. It is fundamentally unacceptable to me that the LibDem/Conservative Government seems focused on a top-down reorganisation of the NHS, not the needs of those people in our community who cannot get the social care, the operations, or the attention they need.
As an elected representative, it is my duty to stand up for the interests of the people who put their trust in me, and to make sure that those things we all value, including, unquestionably, a good standard of healthcare, are maintained. I will never stop fighting on behalf of the people I represent so that a good standard of health care, available to all and free at the point of use, is maintained and advanced in our area.