I completely support the SOS NHS campaign and its three demands for the Government.
The NHS needs to be properly funded, its staff must be properly paid, and the tide of privatisation should be rolled-back.
One of the greatest challenges facing the NHS is how to clear the backlog that has built-up throughout the pandemic. Last year, I raised this issue directly with the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, but the response that I received did not convince me that the NHS is receiving the funding that it needs to complete this herculean task.
I am pleased that the Government is providing additional funding to support the recovery of the NHS from the pandemic and to address the backlog of cases. However, several health groups, including the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, have said that this new funding is not enough and that it needs to be sustained over several years, not just in a one-off payment.
Also, the Government has ignored some of the non-funding recommendations from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy, such as the appointment of a Minister with responsibility to lead and oversee a national cancer recovery plan and strategy for the future of cancer care.
I am concerned that the Government’s response will not be enough to tackle the backlog of cases and I can therefore assure you that my Opposition Colleagues and I will continue to press the Government to restore services to pre-pandemic levels and clear the backlog as soon as possible.
Back in the Autumn Budget, the Chancellor promised a pay rise for public sector workers, to come into force in April this year. However, despite receiving a great deal of applause for this promise, he never said what percentage the increase would be, and, given that inflation is currently 5.5% and rising, any pay rise below that would be a real terms cut.
I know that my Opposition Colleagues and I will highlight this in April when we finally discover what the Chancellor intends to pay our NHS heroes.
Unfortunately, the Government has a sizeable majority and will therefore almost certainly pass the Health and Care Bill 2021-22. However, just like after the passage of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, we will continue to fight for a publicly owned NHS.
There is, in my view, an incompatibility between the aims of private companies and the aims of the NHS. A company’s primary concern is its shareholders, not patients or public health.
These three areas that the SOS NHS campaign are highlighting are critical to the future success of the NHS, and I can assure you that I will continue to fight on these fronts for as long as I am an MP.