A very happy New Year to you all.
This year will be an important year for Britain as more detail will emerge regarding what kind of Britain we want to be part of and leave to our children. For those wanting to take part I'd recommend watching out for any Government consultations as they are coming thick and fast. Whitehall seeks to establish public consensus on the vast array of subjects that the UK Parliament will be able to determine (as we navigate our exit from the EU) and this is your opportunity to take part. I will use any avenue available to me to publicise these consultations as they arise. Over the past year the UK has seemed divided on many important issues. I hope, during the course of this year, we can find agreement on the key themes.
This year is the 70th year of the NHS. This is a remarkable milestone and over this time so much has changed. Treatments are so advanced compared to 70 years ago. People are surviving and are often cured of illness that would have previously been fatal and joint replacements, organ transplants and cancer treatments (to name a few) have enabled people to live longer in far greater comfort and mobility. Millions more of us now access NHS services and scores more people work within what is the fifth biggest employer in the world. The core principle of being free at the point of use is central to the very ethos of the NHS and I'm not aware of any serious voice calling for this to change. In its 70th year there is an opportunity to have a national debate about how we fund the NHS going forward. The NHS needs more money, this is in no doubt. The combination of advances in medicine and technology and an ageing and increasing population demand more finances and, despite increasing health budgets, the gap between the costs of delivering the NHS we believe in and the money currently available is growing. I will be pressing the Government to lead such a debate. MPs from all sides want to work to establish a health and care system that works for everyone and the 70th anniversary should provide the focus for an honest national discussion.
Over the Christmas break the Royal College of GPs launched the '3 before GP' campaign, urging us all to take three steps before phoning for a GP appointment. Apparently, if just 5% of us followed these guidelines, 50,000 appointments could be freed up for others. We are advised to check out online using a reputable source of information, 'sort ourselves out' or go to the local pharmacy. These three steps are designed to try to solve a health problem before seeing our GP. Here in West Cornwall I know we have some excellent Community Pharmacists who work closely with our equally excellent GPs. Where necessary they will refer you to the GP. You can check out the campaign: '3 before GP' at http://www.rcgp.org.uk/