It’s been said of the UK and the US that we’re “two nations divided by a common language”. Maybe so, but perhaps the widest cultural gulf between our countries is in our different approaches to healthcare. For us in Britain, providing life-saving treatment free at the point of need and regardless of ability to pay is a hallmark of our country and the values we hold dear. We take pride in the fact that when our children are wheeled into Cheltenham General Hospital, treating clinicians focus not on personal finances but on providing skilled and compassionate care.
And in this 70th year of the NHS, with our country slowly emerging from the financial abyss it was plunged into a decade ago, the time is right to invest. So over the next four years hospital chiefs in England will be handed an extra £20 billion per year. To put that in context, the current budget is around £125 billion a year. So this is a massive increase.
I’m calling on local NHS bosses to use those additional resources to recruit more specialist A&E doctors for Cheltenham. They should back our A&E and reverse the nighttime downgrade. I also believe in supporting our brilliant oncologists to develop Cheltenham’s reputation as a centre of excellence for cancer care. And I’m calling for more investment in adolescent mental health support to tackle the surge in demand, partly caused by the toxic potential of social media.
As for the immediate need with winter approaching, I am delighted that Gloucestershire hospitals have this week been awarded an extra £1.3 million to prepare. The cash boost is earmarked to deliver additional beds, support A&E units, streamline bed management systems and improve ‘same-day’ care.
This injection comes on top of the £40 million we’ve already secured this year to help modernise Gloucestershire’s hospitals, with an additional £1 million to enhance emergency care services at Cheltenham General Hospital.
With financial support and an enduring commitment to its founding values, I believe the NHS’s best days can lie ahead.