From the cradle to the grave; for most of us, the first face we see when we are born is that of an NHS worker and from that moment on, we entrust ourselves to the care of our National Health Service at some of the most vulnerable, poignant and important moments in our lives. It is perhaps for this reason that I, like many others, feel so angry about this Coalition government's attacks on our NHS.
The Tory-led government is undermining a national institution, privatising a vital public service and opening it up to the market, all in the name of competition, without any real thought for the repercussions of their actions on the millions of people who rely on it every day. More and more patients are finding it harder to see their GP, waiting over four hours in A&E, spending longer on hospital waiting lists and facing delays in accessing cancer treatment - over 62 days in many more cases. Ambulance Response Times are rising and there are 7,000 fewer frontline staff. That's why services have become rationed and restricted and we are seeing the return of the postcode lottery. Why? Because Cameron has broken his pre-election promise to health workers and forced through an expensive and unnecessary top-down reorganisation, which has seen £3 billion of public funds wasted. Money that would have been better invested into our NHS to continue to improve what we have long understood to be, but has now been officially named, the best healthcare system in the world.
The NHS was founded on three main principles - to meet everyone's needs, to be free at the point of delivery and to be openly available according to need, not wealth. These principles have framed and defined the healthcare system in this country since Labour created the NHS over half a century ago. But the Tories and Lib Dems have shown a complete disregard for this by pushing a programme of legislation from the Health and Social Care Act, to Section 75 to Clause 119 of the Care Bill, which undermines these founding principles and begins the dismantling of the NHS as we know it. The Government justifies this programme of fragmentation by saying it serves to make our healthcare system more efficient, but longer waiting times, wasted public money and cuts to NHS staff all prove otherwise.
Since 1948, the NHS has been there for us, our neighbours, our friends and our families whenever we needed it and now it is our turn to repay the favour. This is why I will be joining the People's March for the NHS. The march started just under two weeks ago on its 300 mile route from Jarrow to the Houses of Parliament. Tonight, as it passes through my constituency, I am privileged to say I will be there to address those who are taking part, to show my support for the NHS and its workers and to stand together with those like me who believe that we cannot let these attacks on our healthcare system continue. The Tories have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted with the NHS and the Liberal Democrats have stood by and said nothing. The Labour Party would not let this happen. We have already committed to repealing the Health and Social Care Act if elected in 2015 and in the meantime will continue in our strong tradition of defending the principle of universal healthcare. As the General Election draws ever nearer, there has never been a more critical moment in the history of the NHS, so join us over the summer in our campaign to save it.