FIONA ONASANYA

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - YOUR TELEGRAPH - Fiona Onasanya

The NHS is our great­est na­tional achieve­ment. Founded after World War II in a time of deep fi­nan­cial trou­bles, it is a poignant re­minder that even dur­ing times of ‘aus­ter­ity’ – we can still pro­vide for those most in need.

One of the big­gest de­fend­ers of our Na­tional Health Ser­vice, ac­tivist Harry Les­lie Smith, passed away last week. Even dur­ing old age, Harry was tour­ing the world - giv­ing in­ter­views and talks on the im­por­tance of pro­vid­ing free health­care at the point of use and re­liv­ing his own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences and losses be­fore the cre­ation of the NHS.

I feel that it is im­per­a­tive to con­tinue his legacy and fight for this coun­try’s pride and joy. This is why I am deeply con­cerned about the strat­egy the gov­ern­ment is tak­ing when it comes to the NHS.

Re­search pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the Royal So­ci­ety of Medicine claimed that “re­lent­less gov­ern­ment cuts” could have been be­hind up to as many as

30,000 deaths in

2015. Mean­while, hospi­tals up and down the coun­try are un­able to af­ford re­pairs or new equip­ment, yet are still fac­ing more swinge­ing cuts over the com­ing years.

It is a con­sis­tent trend in all our pub­lic ser­vices: that those who pro­tect us and keep us safe are in­creas­ingly strug­gling to do their jobs to the best of their abil­ity due to the po­lit­i­cal choice of aus­ter­ity.

As win­ter ap­proaches, many hospi­tals are ex­pected to be on black alert over win­ter. Peo­ple are wor­ried about pa­tient safety, and for the safety of their fam­ily and friends. In­stead of cut­ting the NHS to the bone, surely it’s time to give it the fund­ing it de­serves and needs to pro­vide high-qual­ity health­care for us all?

Aus­ter­ity to the NHS, and aus­ter­ity on the whole, is a po­lit­i­cal choice not an eco­nomic ne­ces­sity.

Any­body who tells you that this is about eco­nomics or ‘bal­anc­ing the books’ al­ways con­ve­niently for­gets that the UK spends much less of its na­tional in­come on health com­pared to al­most ev­ery other na­tion in the Western world.

Cuts to the NHS are a di­rect at­tack on the poor­est in so­ci­ety – those who are al­ready liv­ing pre­car­i­ously through zero-hours con­tracts and ex­tor­tion­ate rents. But not only this, it’s an at­tack on us all, and an at­tack on the val­ues of com­pas­sion and care that this coun­try holds dear. The crises in men­tal health and adult so­cial care are a na­tional trav­esty, and they have been made worse by the last eight years of reck­less aus­ter­ity.

It’s time to halt pri­vati­sa­tion and shift the fo­cus back onto peo­ple and care­giv­ing in­stead of profit and quick fixes. But most im­por­tantly, it’s time to re­source this na­tional trea­sure prop­erly. A new vi­sion for the NHS is needed. Eight years of un­der in­vest­ment has se­verely im­pacted the ser­vice, so much­needed fund­ing must be re­stored.

Cuts to the NHS are a di­rect at­tack on the poor­est in so­ci­ety – those who are al­ready liv­ing pre­car­i­ously through zero-hours con­tracts and ex­tor­tion­ate rents

Peter­bor­ough’s MP writes her reg­u­lar col­umn for the Peter­bor­ough Tele­graph

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