NHS requires action, not plan

With all the noise and discord of Brexit it is possible to think that there are no other important challenges facing the country at the moment.

Thursday, 17th January 2019, 4:10 pm
North Tyneside General Hospital, Rake Lane, North Shields

But there are – and few more important than the future of the National Health Service.

The government’s NHS Long Term Plan set out ambitions to improve treatment and care.

It also showed how the extra £20bn announced for the NHS last June will be spent.

Let me say firstly that there’s much on the plan worth supporting.

The greater use of genomics, the commitment to early cancer diagnosis, new CT and MRI scanners, and the greater focus on child and maternal health are all welcome – and they are actually already our party policy.

However, it’s less rosy elsewhere.

There’s no clear plan on reducing waiting lists or waiting times, which are rising.

Indeed, the scrapping of targets for planned and emergency care in response to last year’s crisis has led to fears that they will be abandoned altogether.

Then there’s the much promised, long-term workforce plan.

There are already 100,000 staff vacancies in the NHS and ministers have refused to say where new recruits will come from.

The warm words about parity between mental and physical health – again a shared and worthy ambition – won’t be enough without more mental health nurses.

The long-term success of our NHS doesn’t require another action plan, unless the emphasis is on ‘action’ and less on a ‘plan’.

That means giving our excellent NHS staff the resources to get on with their jobs.