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OPINION: NHS at 75 – ‘we need a new culture of respect’

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Thank you to NHS staff across Peterborough and Cambridgeshire

“Thank you” is the first thing to say, as the NHS marks its 75th anniversary.

Thank you not only to the nurses, doctors, and specialist staff in the NHS, but also to the healthcare assistants, porters and others that keep our wonderful national institution going.

We are privileged to be served by such a dedicated NHS workforce in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire and across the country.

From its earliest days, we have valued public health and a shared approach to healthcare – free at the point of use, and for all conditions.

But these have been a difficult few years not least during the pandemic and huge risk that frontline and healthcare workers took protecting and keeping us well.

From clapping NHS workers at the height of COVID we now have an NHS at breaking point.

Every week I speak to people concerned about the NHS, whether it is being able to get a GP appointment, seeing a dentist or waiting longer for treatment. Despite the incredible efforts of NHS staff, and those in pharmacy and GP surgeries, the NHS is struggling.

The health service is short of 150,000 staff. Patients are waiting longer than ever before for operations, in A&E departments, even for an ambulance.

Record waiting lists 

We now have record waiting lists in Peterborough and across Northwest Anglia hospitals.

In April, 77,961 people were waiting to start treatment, with just half seen within 18 weeks. Peterborough is a desert when it comes to NHS dentists with fewer people getting their teeth checked than elsewhere in the country.

And mental health services face record waiting lists, with young people, in particular, being let down.

It doesn’t have to be this way. This isn’t the fault of NHS staff. The celebrations for the NHS this week show the affection and value British people place on it.

Together, the NHS workforce are the shoulders that still lift healthcare high despite the challenges facing the system.

The government have gone from clapping nurses on the frontline to refusing to meet with doctors to resolve the crippling strikes.

We need a new culture of respect. Over the last year I have met with ambulance crew, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and healthcare professionals across the city.

Many of these have been personal visits as I think the first role of politicians should be to listen. My job, potentially as Peterborough’s next MP, is to listen and understand the challenges facing the city.

And to work out the solutions we need.

Earlier in the year, I had the privilege to introduce Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting MP, to local pharmacists and hospital staff to ensure our local message is heard on high as Labour prepares for government.

The message from NHS staff and patients is strikingly similar. People are fed up with the excuses. They know that as a growing city, Peterborough does not get the resources we need for the NHS and social care.

People want the government to get back around the table and start listening to NHS staff – and showing them respect.

Not just about the money

This isn’t just about money. Of course, the NHS needs investment and Labour has been clear that we will abolish the ‘non-dom’ tax status and prioritise funding to ease the current crisis.

As we live longer and medical advances can provide better management for conditions, we also need to change the way healthcare is provided, and that means improving social care. We need to reform pharmacy contracts so that trained professionals on our high streets can be more actively involved in easing waiting lists.

We need a fresh start in Peterborough and for the NHS. The NHS is creaking at the seams, but its values shine through stronger than ever.

My job, if given the privilege to serve the people of Peterborough, will be to ensure we build a better NHS fit for a growing city.

Labour founded the NHS, alongside community and mutual groups 75 years ago, as it was the best way to care for the health of our nation.

Those principles hold true, but we need a plan for the future, with staff and patients at its heart.

 Andrew Pakes is the Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough.

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