Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

Standing up for the NHS - Aug 2008

OVER the past months the country has acknowledged and celebrated the 60th anniversary of the NHS.

I and my family have good reason to be very grateful to it, as we have faced very costly and life-threatening episodes of ill health. 

Both mum and dad are cancer survivors and I needed emergency treatment while a student, received excellent service and did not need to produce a valid insurance card or worry about the expense.

But being proud of this wonderful service does not mean that we should ignore the challenges that we face or stop trying to improve it. 

Our borough does have a number of significant health-care needs, not least that currently we do not yet get the funding our borough should. I continue to fight in Parliament to make sure Newham gets a fairer deal.

The Government have invested heavily in our health service, and I think most of us who can remember how stretched the NHS had become by 1997 will have noticed the improvements. 

Waiting lists are down - new hospitals and health centres being built, old facilities refurbished or added to - and the desperately needed extra staff have been recruited.

Investment

When I speak to you at my coffee mornings or at my surgeries, I am told that you do recognise that there has been significant investment and you do think things have got better, but that you think we can do more to get an NHS which is fit for modern life. 

One of the next steps some of you have raised with me, and that the Government is keen to do, to continue to improve the service is the changing of GP services. 

Most of us visit our GP - it is to them that we trust the care of our health - but how many of us go when we need to? I think that access is one of the keys to improving the NHS is Newham. 

If I feel a lump, or feel a little off colour, I am much more likely to go to the doctor for a check-up if it is easy to do, if the times of the surgery can fit around the working day. Let's be honest, it's no good having a great GP if you can't go there when you need to. 

Delays in getting to the doctor can have a significant impact upon recovery rates. 

I have written before about our need to go to the doctor when it is timely, that too many of us here in Newham wait too long before seeing the doctor with the lump, the cough, the back pain, the difficulty passing water. 

Our survival rates for cancers and other treatable but deadly diseases are poor, and they are in part poor because we do not get to the doctor as quickly as we should.

I think that it is good news that by next year most GP surgeries in West Ham will be open for at least one evening or weekend session every week. David Cameron's Conservatives are against this and have said they would scrap longer opening hours. 

I want to know what you think. Are you in favour of extending GP hours to weekend or evenings in Newham? 

Do you think that having evening or weekend surgeries might mean that you would get to the doctor quicker with a niggling health complaint? What else should be done that could improve services in Newham?

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