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I am delighted to be able to make a contribution to the debate because my constituents have experienced great improvements in the NHS since the election of a Labour Government in 1997. In contrast to Mr. Swayne, I have experienced—as a Member of Parliament, a lifelong resident of my area and, most personally important, the daughter of two very elderly parents—the most fantastic improvements in the local health service.
The improvements are due to the work of dedicated staff, as we have heard, and the investment in facilities, to which the increase in the money spent on the health service has directly led. Those improvements are tangible. The south-west London elective orthopaedic centre in Epsom has ensured that the waiting time for hip and knee replacements is less than six months. I have been a direct beneficiary of that centre because my mother, a nurse who was forced into early retirement by being made redundant in the 1980s, has had two hip replacements in the past three years. Her care has been fantastic and I thank the Government and the doctors and nurses for that treatment.
My father is 82 and, for him, the introduction of targets for waiting times has been fantastic. At accident and emergency in St. George's hospital, he was seen in less than four hours. Within 48 hours, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, of which, thanks to the care of Mr. Bailey and his oncology team, he has now been cured. That is Government and staff working together—real people, not bluster or amazing, screaming headlines.
My experience is of not only my parents but my constituents. In my first three years as a Member of Parliament, I received regular letters about St. Helier and St. George's. Patients said that the wards were dirty and the care was poor. Such letters have, thankfully, reduced to a trickle.
Conservative Members may not like it, but they have so much previous on the health service that my constituents will not forget what they did to it in the 1980s and 1990s. They remember the winter bed crises, the people dying on trolleys and patients forced to wait in pain for two years for their operations. They remember our last local community hospital. I am glad that some Conservative Members have five, but, in 1992, our last community hospital—the Wilson—was closed.
There is a lot of talk these days about health inequalities. I genuinely appreciate that, because we were never allowed to talk about them under the Tories, as people's poverty and working lives supposedly never affected their health. The Tories closed the hospitals in the poorest areas of the country, affecting the most vulnerable people.
Since 1997, the amount of money invested in the NHS each year has doubled, and the number of people serving in the NHS has increased by 300,000. That is a measure of the Labour Government's commitment to the health service. Instead of having to go to dingy, dirty, run-down hospitals or watch much-loved hospitals such as the Wilson close, my constituents are now experiencing something completely different.
The Wilson is scheduled to reopen, and almost all our GP surgeries have had facelifts or have even been rebuilt as state-of-the-art health centres. Those include Dr. Sheikh's surgery in Middleton road, Morden, the surgery of Dr. Patel and Dr. Ganesaratnam at Wide Way in Pollards Hill, the Tamworth House medical centre in Longthornton, and Dr. Colborn's surgery in Figges Marsh in central Mitcham. And only two weeks ago, in the teeth of opposition from Conservative councillors on Merton council, we obtained permission to build a new surgery at Ravensbury Park for Dr. Arulrajah. That will be a great surgery for people who need a new hospital.