Whitehaven News column – 28th August 2014

Recently, Copeland Labour conducted a survey to find out residents’ thoughts on local health matters.  A huge majority of those that took part said that healthcare and the NHS was the most important issue for them and their family.  This isn’t a surprise.  The NHS is extremely close to my heart and we all know somebody who has relied on it in times of desperate need.

Since Labour created the NHS in 1948, it has come under constant threat from the Tories either through the starving of resources in the 1980s or by privatisation and growing fragmentation of services under the Coalition.  This is in contrast to the largest hospital building programme with Labour from 1997 to 2010.  Working with the then Labour Government, I secured funding for the new West Cumberland Hospital, which is very nearly ready.  To ensure we have a strong and sustainable healthcare system in Cumbria, the local NHS trust and the Clinical Commissioning Group need to engage with the community in an open and transparent manner.

The Labour Party, both nationally and locally are absolutely committed to the NHS and its founding principles.  Since I was first elected as Member of Parliament for Copeland in 2005, I have fought tirelessly to secure investment – even when the Government cut the funding for the new hospital.  Despite the threats, the hospital is now almost here.  Now we need the quality of healthcare to match the fantastic facilities.
Report after report into healthcare in our region has shown that local doctors and nurses work extremely hard, but there just isn’t enough of them.  They work extra hours and shifts.  Healthcare professionals are over-worked and under pressure and we need solutions to the growing recruitment crisis.  The local trust is still in special measures, yet the Government refuses to provide more support.

A&E departments are under immense pressure.  In the last six months, almost 2000 people have waited more than four hours in A&E in Cumbria.  This pressure is being seen throughout the NHS with GP surgeries under incredible strain.  According to official figures, over 40,000 people in Cumbria couldn’t get an appointment with their GP the last time they tried; over 60,000 had to wait more than a week.  Thousands of people are forced to go to A&E as they can’t get an appointment at their GP.  What is needed is more funding to ease demand in primary care which would in turn ease pressure in A&E and throughout the NHS.  By saving money on competition within the NHS, we can improve cooperation between services for more holistic care.

Throughout my time in Parliament, through hard work and the commitment of local campaigners and the local communities throughout Copeland, together we have achieved a lot, but that progress is under threat.  Like me, the local Labour party is committed to protecting and improving local health services.  It is in everyone’s interests to have a high quality, sustainable NHS in West Cumbria and I would urge everyone to get involved.


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