It was great at the Labour Party conference last week, feeling the real passion as Ed Miliband spoke about our NHS. The sheer strength of his commitment roused several standing ovations. Much needs to be done to rescue vital services, crumbling in the face of the Coalition’s careless, maybe calculated, neglect.
The NHS is groaning under the strain. Like many of you, I’ve seen it for myself. Both my parents depended on the NHS for on-going care and I needed intensive treatment on my broken elbow and now for my knee injury.
We’ve watched staff numbers shrink, with those on the front line striving ever harder to deliver the care patients deserve. I’ve seen large wards full of sick, confused men covered by just three dedicated, overstretched staff. Many of you raise concerns at midwife shortages and long waits in A&E.
People struggle getting or changing appointments, because administrative systems are under so much pressure. Too often they fail to get patients the right treatment at the right time. You tell me how hard it is now to get to see your GP quickly and easily. With walk-in centres closing, more and more pressure falls on A&E.
Everyone who cares about the NHS knows it cannot deliver for us, unless it’s properly funded. Despite the Coalition’s destructive austerity squeeze, NHS debt next year will be higher than in 2010. Ed quashed the suggestion that increased national insurance contributions could pay more into the NHS. He was right. That would just add to the burden on working families, too many of whom are already struggling, with wages stagnating as prices rise.
Instead, he committed Labour to more nurses, GPs, midwives and care workers – 35,000 in all. Funding will come from reducing corporate tax avoidance, the mansion tax and a fairer contribution from tobacco firms: those who can well afford it.
Ed’s passion for the NHS stood out. He made me proud and even more determined to win next year, so we can use the power of Government to stand up for working people. Together, we can and will do better.