MATTHEW HANCOCK: Important to improve healthcare

Column by Matthew Hancock MP
Column by Matthew Hancock MP
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Sometimes the noise and the chatter of politics can distract from how much it matters that as a nation we get the big decisions right about how we run our lives.

One example of that is about how we run the health system. The quality of health care affects every family who has suffered ill health, and everyone who has ever been sick. So it affects us all.

I think that is one reason why people across West Suffolk and across the country value the NHS so much. That principle: that a good quality service should be readily available to all, with no-one left behind, free at the point of use, is deeply embedded in our nation – and in me. Our NHS is something to be very proud of.

And we are lucky that healthcare in Britain has been lauded as the best in the world – and that in West Suffolk we have one of the most popular hospitals in the country. West Suffolk Hospital was recently shortlisted, for the fourth year running, to win the prestigious national award for excellence in high quality patient care. Its clinical photography department also achieved a prize for consistently high standards.

I’m a strong supporter of the Government’s decision to increase spending on the NHS, even while spending elsewhere is having to be reduced. All seven Suffolk MPs have teamed together to fight for fairer funding for the county, to ensure we get a fair allocation of that increased budget, not least to pay for higher transport costs.

Just because part of the appeal of living in West Suffolk is its distance from hectic city life, a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the capital, should not mean that good quality healthcare cannot be easily accessed.

As strong supporters of the NHS we should also constantly strive for improvement – just as individual doctors and nurses strive to improve the treatment of patients in their care. As our population evolves and develops, improvement becomes all the more pertinent. People are living longer, healthier lives, with new and often more complicated challenges, and our healthcare system must mirror that.

Here in West Suffolk, improving healthcare for local people is one of my top priorities as the local MP. Since before I was elected I’ve been campaigning for better local services. Facilities need to be updated to suit the population’s needs. Timely access to doctors is one of the most important features of a healthcare system, helping prevent disease and save lives.

I am working closely with NHS England to help fight West Suffolk’s corner for better healthcare. We have already succeeded in the promise of a new ECG machine for Haverhill, and I am campaigning hard for a new X-ray machine too, to help bring services closer to patients’ homes.

Local people are now able to access specialist physiotherapy, reducing their need to travel outside West Suffolk for treatment. There is children’s musculoskeletal physiotherapy, and adult respiratory clinics, as well as a wide range of other treatments available. These new clinics were launched after similar services began in Sudbury and Newmarket late last year. They are excellent additions for the local community and a stepping stone in the right direction to improving healthcare for the area.

I am continuously engaging with local GPs and schools to find further ways of improving the services in West Suffolk. The last four years have been much tougher than previously on GP practices – something everyone on the frontline is acutely aware of.

Although this Government has had to deal with a large deficit while the demand for services has risen steeply, we have done all we can to protect the health budget.

The right balance needs to be found between improving the quality of healthcare and maintaining the efficiency of spending. While science and drug developments are important, we must always ensure the patient remains firmly at the heart of all healthcare improvements. Compassion, care and patient’s safety should be at the top our list of priorities.

One of my proudest achievements as Skills Minister was to introduce a new apprenticeship for nursing, to allow people to learn on the job, to combine the vital medical training with active training on the job, building on the work of the very best nurses to strengthen further that most caring and compassionate profession.

There is no silver bullet to improving healthcare locally or nationally.

What is important is understanding patients at a time of basic human need, committing to a quality of care that protects and improves lives while providing a personal service that relives suffering in every possible way. People in West Suffolk deserve the best the NHS can provide – and I commit that I will do my job to ensure their voice is properly heard.