I write this column from my kitchen; the telly in the corner is playing the BBC Parliament channel.
Sadly, I have seen more of Parliament from TV screens in the last few weeks, than from my usual place on the front bench in the Chamber.
Since my last column, I have had a further operation on my elbow and yet another is scheduled for next week. Currently I have a weird metal bar and bolt contraption fixed into the bone.
For the squeamish, I won’t go into any further detail. Sufficient to say that having been told by the surgeon that my elbow was mashed (apparently a technical term) I was delighted by his upbeat visit after my op. He was hugely pleased with his work; like a man who had scored the winning goal at Wembley.
My care at the hands of the NHS has been wonderful.
Many thanks to all of you who sent such kind messages of support and concern.
I have written before about the feedback I get from many of you at my coffee mornings and surgeries. I have been told over and over that you have seen the results of the significant investment which went into the NHS under Labour.
I was delighted to receive this feedback and to know it made a real difference to the quality of care for Newham’s people. I must admit I had no real, personal appreciation of just how good it had become, until recent weeks.
My experience emphasises just what we could lose because of the Government’s plans for the NHS.
The Government promises to guarantee health spending will rise in real terms each year yet we know that health spending is falling by 4% each year. Our ageing population costs the NHS an additional 3% each year, just to maintain standards. It’s quite clear the NHS will have to do more with less.
In Newham the PCT expect to be cut by £30million from April. So far £7million has been found by making management staff cuts. There are concerns that the rest will be found from clinical services, affecting money available for our care. Finding this money will effectively rely on GP’s referring less people for treatment.
To make matters even worse, the Government have chosen to totally re-organise the services provided. The conservative estimate of the cost is £1.4billion.
The NHS will be subject to competition on price, allowing the private sector to cherry-pick the easiest, most profitable medical procedures.
The NHS will be left, with less money, to deal with the less lucrative end of the market: care for the elderly, the chronically sick and the terminally ill.
Who will be the winners from all the upheaval planned for the NHS? Sadly, the private healthcare sector; big private companies, some of which make significant donations to the Tory party.
The losers will be us.
My fall happened the day after the NHS Bill was debated in Parliament.
Every hospital and health worker I have spoken to about these proposals is very concerned about this Government’s approach.
None of us believe this Government is putting the best interests of patients first. Instead, profit is being placed before people.