Two things we need to do to help our National Health Service

A generic photo of a doctor taking a mature man's blood pressure.
PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.

A generic photo of a doctor taking a mature man's blood pressure. PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos. - Credit: PA

There are a few political decisions which virtually every person in our country now supports – council houses, the minimum wage, pensions, and above all the National Health Service, writes Suffolk Labour group leader Sandy Martin.

Ipswich Hospital's emergency department

Ipswich Hospital's emergency department - Credit: Archant

In 1948 Nye Bevan said: “Despite our financial and economic anxieties we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world – put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration.”

There were people then who said the NHS would bankrupt the nation and would not produce better health.

Well, the NHS is not cheap – but it costs us a lot less than the insurance based system in the USA – and for the average person it keeps us healthier than the Americans too.

Some bad decisions have been taken recently – in particular, reducing the training places and bursaries for young people to become doctors and nurses.

And although the Government claims to have increased funding for the Health Service, in many cases that money has actually been taken from another part of the health and care system, or absorbed in the top-down reorganisations the government has imposed.

We now need to do two things to help our health service - and make ourselves healthier at the same time.

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First, we must reduce the number of people going into A&E. The County Council can help here, promoting health education especially through Children’s Centres, ensuring Care Homes take measures to avoid injuries, and supporting charities dealing with mental health, drink and drug addiction.

And then we need to make sure that as soon as people are ready to leave hospital, they have somewhere safe and healthy to go.

It is absurd that someone who no longer requires hospital treatment should be stuck in a hospital bed, at risk of picking up infections from the other patients and gradually losing the ability and motivation to do things for themselves.

And of course it doesn’t help anyone else either, costing the NHS thousands, using valuable nursing resources, preventing serious medical conditions from being treated because there aren’t enough beds.

We need more home carers, more residential care homes, more care home staff. We need more support and help for families who want to care for their relatives at home, but need respite care time, and day-care centres, and adaptations at home.

There has been a lot of unhelpful argument about exactly what is being paid to whom. The fact is, we all know that people are being stuck in hospital beds, we can see it with our own eyes, and no amount of clever statistics are going to cover that up.

And we know that care homes are closing because they can’t afford the trained staff, and we know that Age UK Suffolk and others are closing day care centres because the county council has slashed their grants.

After 1948 this country picked itself up, went back to work, paid off its debts, and became the sixth biggest economy in the world partly because we were also one of the healthiest nations in the world.

People need the security of knowing that, if they do become sick, they will get the treatment they need.

They also need to know that, if they need care in their old age, that will be available too, and it will be safe and supportive.

I don’t believe that we have to make a choice between enabling people to get the most out of life and saving money.

If the people of Suffolk are secure and healthy and can get the education they need and can travel to work or college on good roads or decent public transport, then our county will thrive and the County Council will get the money it needs.

If the council cuts away the support people need to pursue their lives, then I don’t think the residents will forgive them.