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Jun 29

Happy birthday to our NHS

NHS 70 cardThis weekend, across the country, people will be celebrating our National Health Service, which is 70 years young on Thursday July 5.

Labour Secretary of State for Health Aneurin Bevan founded the NHS at Park Hospital in Manchester and for once and all ended the nightmare of people having to pay to secure decent health for themselves and their families.

Although there have been huge advances in health technologies and treatments, the principle of the NHS being universally available, paid for through general taxation and free at the point of use has remained constant.

We all have very good reasons to be thankful for our National Health Service as an institution known and celebrated across the world. Of course, we should never forget that what makes it tick every single day are the people who work in it, both healthcare professionals and support staff.

Thank you to every single one of you for your dedication and hard work.

Every birthday is a time for a reflection and time for looking to the future.

It is no different with the NHS.

I am passionate about the NHS because I see the frightening levels of ill health and stark inequalities in health outcomes that still exist in our society.

The NHS alone cannot reduce those inequalities. We need the government to recognise its responsibility in tackling the social and economic causes of ill health, such as poor housing, precarious work and poverty.

I see in Parliament the tools and levers that could be used to really make a difference.

I want to see the NHS in the next 70 years better supported by policies across national and local government that help people get and stay healthy and live longer and healthier lives.

That means properly funding the NHS and social care – and to stop pretending that there is a pot of gold, or a magic money tree through the Brexit door. There isn’t.

Even after the Tory government’s latest promised investment, Britain’s health spending as a percentage of national income will still be well below the average of many of our nearest neighbours.

We need a sustainable, long-term funding deal for the NHS that is true to its founding principles and ensures that money flows toward prevention and early intervention services. That, in turn, would help reduce demand on crisis services in the NHS.

We also need to bring real equality between mental health and physical health and we need to be as visionary about social care as Aneurin Bevan was about health care.

Our collective birthday present to our National Health Service should be a renewed commitment to its founding principles of universal coverage free at the point of need.

For the next 70 years, that renewed commitment should be supported by a new Health in All Policies approach.

That would make the government consider the health impact of every decision it takes across every government department, from how to ensure we live in good housing, to what we learn in our schools, to how to ensure the financial and emotional stability that is the foundation for all good health.

You can join me in sending the NHS best wishes on its 70th birthday by clicking here.