It is good to be back after using the NHS’s maternity services.
I am proud of our NHS, and I am tired of Opposition Members talking it down. Our healthcare system is one of the best in the world, and while there is more to do, we should continue to improve our NHS with excitement for the opportunities ahead. We need to be honest about our current situation. We have an ageing and expanding population, and other strong-performing healthcare systems around the globe are facing the same pressures as we are. As a member of the all-party parliamentary group on Taiwan, I was fortunate to see at first hand the excellent healthcare provision over there, yet Taiwan’s own Ministers shared with the delegation the fact that they are facing the same pressures as we are.
It is a wonderful thing that we are living longer. It is a credit to advances in medicine and evidence of the effectiveness of this Government’s care policies and the strong performance of our NHS. This Government began preparations for winter pressures earlier than ever before. They drew up plans to free up 2,000 to 3,000 beds, extended the flu vaccine programme and provided help to GPs to extend working hours. In my own area, the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust each received an extra £3.4 million for their winter preparations. As the director of acute care at NHS England has stated, the NHS is better prepared for winter than ever before. Furthermore, from 2015, the Government continued to increase investment in the NHS, from £101 billion in 2015 to £120 billion by 2020. It is simply false for the Opposition to claim that the health budget has been cut since 2010.
But this is not always about how money is invested; it is also about how it is used. During my university studies, in a dissertation focusing on economic and healthcare policy, I looked at investment per capita compared with healthcare outcome. There is a lot of waste in the NHS, but the Government’s strong record on tackling it has put us in a better position than ever before to tackle winter pressures. Cutting the use of expensive agency staff, the positive impact of NHS self-driven improvements and the consolidation of services are only some of the examples of areas in which excellent progress has been made in order to deliver better value for money for the taxpayer, to deliver results in the light of our ageing and expanding population and to prepare us better for winter.
Having sat on the Health Committee, I am fully aware that there is still more to do, but I am strongly encouraged by the Government’s actions and those of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his additional responsibilities. Integrating health and social care makes sense, and it will only serve to better prepare the NHS for winter. I wish him much success with the important task ahead. I know that this is an area he is passionate about. GP working days and a seven-day NHS are only some of the areas in which work has begun, and this will ensure that the winter preparations get better and better. I join my right hon. Friend in urging those on the Opposition Benches to look at their own record in Labour-run Wales.
During the winter months of last year, I myself required the care and help of the NHS on a number of occasions. During my pregnancy I developed a temporary heart condition, and I have to say that the care was absolutely excellent. The Government’s investment in mental health provision for people having babies is also excellent. The NHS also saved my husband’s life when he had stage 4 cancer. I commend the Government for their work, and I wish my right hon. Friend every success in his new role.