The House returned from the Christmas recess last week facing a new year that will see the consequences of 2016 looming large, namely the invoking of Article 50 that will start the process of Britain leaving the European Union. However, despite this dominating the political agenda for the last 6 months of 2016 there are many other issues that need to be addressed and dealt with.

This time of year is traditionally the time when the National Health Service comes under most pressure, and the 27th December was the busiest day in the Health Service’s history, placing more pressure on the staff and services that they provide. Many politicians have paid tribute to the staff in NHS who worked throughout the holiday period, and I would join them and also pay tribute to the many other people who work over holiday periods such as Christmas and New Year.

The NHS is a great institution and one that is universally admired and funding it is always a challenge. It is one area where Government funding has continued and in greater amounts, yet there seems to be a perennial problem with money for the Health Service. I am not going to say that everything is perfect, it plainly isn't, nor will I say that the NHS is completely broken and I felt the comments by the Red Cross claiming that the NHS faced a ‘humanitarian crisis’ were unwarranted and also diminished genuine humanitarian crises we see elsewhere in the world.

However there are still problems to be addressed, and identifying these problems brings forward a variety of opinions from politicians, health professionals and other bodies. Is there enough money going in? Is that money being well spent? The answer to those questions cannot both be yes. I have had letters, emails and visits to my surgery from patients and professionals alike all with stories to tell and with suggestions on how we can do things better. I feed these into the ministerial team in the Department of Health, particularly suggestions from people working in the NHS, as they are the ones on the front line who can see what changes need to be made and how they can improve the service.

I hope we can get political consensus across all sides to find solutions to the ongoing pressures on the NHS; an aging population, increased demand and increasing costs. If we could leave politics out of the discussions, I feel this would be helpful in ensuring our NHS remains the best in the world.


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