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The announcement in the Budget of additional funds for the NHS is to be welcomed and will provide a much needed boost to the delivery of healthcare services across the country. However, I am concerned that the Government have not got to grips with the reality of what is happening to healthcare services and health outcomes on the ground.
The record of the Government on healthcare is not a good one. Last week, we heard how improvements to life expectancy have stalled for the first time in 100 years and that health inequalities have grown. This added to a long list of indicators that suggest that all is not well with our NHS and, perhaps more importantly, the health of the nation. It is a sad fact that investment seems to be made available only when the Government are reacting to a crisis—often of their own making, I have to add. If the Government are serious about improving the health of the nation, they need not only to deal with the day-to-day challenges that the NHS is facing and will face in the short to medium terms: they need a whole-of-Government approach that includes taking into account the role of the welfare system, local government and education. Indeed, it is worth reminding ourselves that, when local government was made responsible for public health, it was to recognise the role of different Government bodies in delivering health outcomes.
To continue on the Government’s current trajectory is to continue to lurch from one healthcare crisis to another. This is simply not sustainable, and a whole-of-Government approach must be adopted if we are truly to reverse the declines that we have seen over the past few years, particularly among poorer households.