Next month marks the 70th birthday of our beloved NHS, and it is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate our most cherished public service. Few things matters more to the British people than our NHS.
For me, it holds a particularly special place in my heart. Before entering Parliament, I worked as a full-time cancer research nurse at the Royal Marsden Hospital for over 20 years, specialising in the field of breast cancer research. My mother before me was also a nurse and improving our health service has always been an issue close to my heart and is what motivated me to become an MP and add my voice to those that could instil change.
I was therefore delighted to hear the Prime Minister announce this week a historic long-term funding boost and a ten year plan for our health service. This is a welcome birthday present for the NHS and will see the NHS budget increase by over £20billion a year, in real terms, over the next five years.
This investment is only possible because we have taken a balanced approach to the economy and have managed public finances responsibly. This government has shown through prudent management of the economy we can deal with our budget deficit while investing in key frontline services. Since 2010, we have reduced Labour’s record deficit by over three quarters, whilst at the same time increasing spending on our NHS by over £12.7billion, before the additional money announced this week.
Some of the extra funding will come from using the money that we will no longer have to spend on our annual membership subscription to the European Union once we have left. It is right that we put this extra money towards frontline services.
And as demand and pressures on our NHS grows, it is right that taxpayers contribute a bit more too - in a fair way - to support our NHS, which we all value. But rightly, it is important that as we increase funding for the NHS, we also stamp out waste and inefficiency and this is what our ten-year plan will do.
Our NHS offers world class medical care free at the point of use, regardless of their background and or income. We must not forget that with this is down to the heroic work of all our doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to save and improve lives every minute of every day. That is why we have put them at the forefront of our ten year plan for the NHS.
We are all living longer and therefore the pressures on our NHS are mounting, and as we see rapid technological advancements we need to make sure our health system also adapts and changes with the times.
We have already begun to embrace new technologies that make earlier diagnosis more likely and care safer and more accurate. The funding boost announced this week in part will go towards further research and development that will put our NHS at the forefront of the revolution in, for example, Artificial Intelligence. We have already allocated £7billion to use AI for earlier cancer diagnosis of at least 50,000 more people every year.
Another area that we must continue to embrace is mental health. Theresa May has rightly championed this issue, and has made it a personal mission of hers to try and break down barriers that have previously surrounded these issues. The Government has embarked on one of the biggest expansions in mental health services in Europe and the dial is beginning to turn but we still see too many people slipping through the net as they are bound up in the stigma of mental health. We must continue to push to break down these barriers, so that there is a parity of esteem between mental and physical health.
I care passionately about healthcare, and I am proud of what this Government has achieved and the long-term commitments we are making so that we preserve our beloved NHS for generations to come. This long-term plan and historic finding boost is a wonderful and deserved birthday present to our NHS.
Maria Caulfield is the Conservative MP for Lewes and party vice chair for women