Rachael Maskell MP
Rachael Maskell MP

From a nation torn by war, 75 years ago, the Labour Government would not truck with inequality or injustice, and asserted that health should be available for all, free at the point of need.

Sister Margaret Locker, left, Dr Steven Crane and Rachael Maskell at York Hospital
Sister Margaret Locker, left, Dr Steven Crane and Rachael Maskell at York Hospital's upgraded A&E department

I know the reality of the time it takes to train, but staff are needed now. Most of the plan’s training ambitions won’t even start until after the next General Election.

Having cut the NHS since 2011, the Tories have squandered their time in office, bringing the NHS to its knees: 7.4m patients waiting for vital elective care, social care stretched beyond repair and mental health services so thin on the ground.

Hope is on its way. I worked in the NHS at the tail end of the last Tory Government. The long patient waits, severe staff shortages and crumbling hospitals. From 1997, Labour fixed the NHS. Each week, I would see improvements, staff could breathe again, and patients were seen when they needed care. You could get an appointment when you had need and vital treatment was not denied.

You could even see a dentist or GP and the NHS, whether at home or in hospital, had the staff to care. We opened medical schools and nursing courses. We innovated and invested.

Labour wants the NHS to be the envy of the world again. When we left office, the NHS had an all-time high patient satisfaction rate, and was heralded as the most cost-effective health system in the world. That is the difference a Labour Government can make.

Labour’s ambition has never waned. As Nye Bevan said 75 years ago, “the NHS will last as long as there are folk with the faith to fight for it”. The Tories might have given up, but we have kept the faith and we will fight alongside every patient and every member of staff.

This is all too important for us, as it speaks of our values and our purpose.

So let us embrace Labour’s ambition, to end health inequality and injustice, value the dedication of the staff, and rebuild the NHS to once again become the best in the world. Happy Birthday NHS.

This article was first printed in the York Press on 12th July 2023. 

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